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5 Tips Retailers Can Use to Keep Customers Safe

By: Jenna Cyprus


Portrait of a saleswoman or small business owner wearing medical mask at the counter in cafe or small shop. Concept of a retail business during a pandemic

As a brick and mortar retailer, you have a moral and legal obligation to keep your customers safe and out of harm’s way. The question is, are you living up to this expectation?

5 Tips for Keeping Customers Safe

Whether it’s physical threats – like tripping, falling, or being subjected to violent crime – or the spread of germs and illness – such as a global pandemic or flu season – retailers have a duty to prioritize the health and well-being of their shoppers. Here are some tactics you can use to do just that:

  1. Adopt Clear Safety Standards

When you look at COVID-19, it’s obvious that safety standards are a must. And the safety standards need to be clearly identified so that employees and customers know how to respond.

“Retailers need to be creating and communicating clear standards for sanitizing stores, distribution centers, and trucks; social distancing; handwashing and personal protection; surveillance to identify potential illness in employees; and new ways of working (for instance, switching from huddles to different modes of communication or creating smaller work groups in distribution centers),” Sarah Kalloch writes for Harvard Business Review.

In companies where there’s high turnover, short tenures, and lots of volatility in staff, keeping up with safety standards can prove to be a real challenge. This is where training comes into play. Rigorous and repeated training – including in classroom settings and “on the floor” – is a must.

  1. Empower Your Team

You can’t prioritize customer safety if you aren’t first prioritizing your employees and their well-being. Show your employees respect by offering them the right pay and providing the resources, tools, and technology they need to perform their job in a safe capacity. If your team members aren’t cared for, they won’t be capable of protecting your customers.

  1. Keep Physical Premises Safe

Nothing can derail your business quite like an instance where a customer slips, trips, or falls on your property and then slaps you with a lawsuit. It’s a nightmare worth avoiding. And the best way to do this is to keep physical premises safe.

Common problem areas include parking lots, walkways, and stairs. Damaged and cracked concrete can be a tripping hazard and should be dealt with sooner rather than later. By repairing concrete and eliminating these problem areas, you can significantly reduce your odds of having customers injured on your property.

  1. Be Intentional With Traffic Patterns

If you’re expecting a busy shopping day – either in conjunction with a promotion or a holiday – establishing intentional traffic patterns is a must. (And in today’s pandemic, intentional traffic patterns are a must for everyday shopping.)

The best way to develop traffic patterns is to begin by mapping out your store.

“Planning for crowds will be so much easier when you have a visual aid,” writes Francesca Nicasio, Vend’s retail expert. “If you haven’t done so yet, create a store map and use it to identify entrances, exits, and other important spaces. Doing so will also help you plan how to manage traffic flow, where to place fixtures and equipment, and where to position your staff.”

The sooner you start planning for these events, the better your results will be. And don’t forget to prioritize employee safety in the process, as well!

  1. Take a Page Out of Walmart’s Book

Walmart is an interesting case study in retail safety, simply because of its size and reach. An estimated 95 percent of U.S. consumers shop at one of Walmart’s thousands of stores every year. Thus, anything that can happen in America can and will happen at a Walmart. Yet despite this fact, Walmart remains relatively safe and crime-free. (They have their fair share of unfortunate headlines, but in the grand scheme of things, these incidents are an infinitesimal percentage of total interactions.)

One of the ways Walmart keeps crime down is by increasing the number of employees at the front of the store. In particular, they’ve hired more greeters and make it a point to make eye contact with everyone who enters the store. According to their internal reports, just having someone in this capacity brings the rate and risk of criminal activity down.

Keep Customers Safe

There’s no excuse for exposing shoppers to unnecessary risks. By accounting for the issues outlined in this article, you can keep your customers out of harm’s way and avoid the financial and reputational backlash that occurs when people are negatively impacted as a result of interacting with your business. Do your part to keep our world safe!

Published: September 16, 2020

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Jenna Cyprus

Jenna Cyprus is a freelance writer and business consultant who covers business, technology, and entrepreneurship. She's lectured for several universities, and worked with over 100 businesses over the course of the last 15 years. She's a mother of two kids, and loves to go camping, hiking, and skiing with her family.

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