By Anouk Malavoy
Canadian retailers across the country are actively preparing to safely welcome back their consumers as provinces begin a gradual approach to reopening their economies. The changes brought about by COVID-19 on the retail world will not be short-lived as the dangers relating to the virus will remain until a vaccine is created and proved effective. This is forcing retailers to think of a way to incorporate PPE products in a manner that is aligned to their brand and that is feasible to establish within their stores. In these moments it is important for retailers to find a way to remain relevant and re-examine how to tackle the changes they are faced with. We all have a choice regarding the manner in which we approach this new reality. I feel this is an opportunity for retailers to strengthen their brands as they incorporate new ”stay-safe” PPE products to maintain the health and safety of their customers/clients as well as their employees. Astley Gilbert aims to inspire and educate retailers about the next steps relating to PPE offerings in our new reality.
When COVID-19 began emerging, Astley Gilbert had to redefine how to remain relevant in a fragile market while serving its community and clients. For this reason, Astley Gilbert felt a responsibility to provide high quality customizable PPE products that would respond to the design requirements of various retailers. We re-engineered our capabilities, educated ourselves on Health Canada PPE requirements, and procured a Medical Device Establishment License to ensure our clients felt confident we were providing PPE products that meet the highest quality standards. It was important that our PPE products be created with a design element in mind in order to make them feel inclusive within a retailer’s store setting. We were looking beyond the product simply providing safety and wanted to help our retail clients have professional looking pieces that blend in to their existing space.
Health Canada’s PPE recommendations include sanitizing stations in all high traffic areas, physical barriers, floor markings, and masks/face shields.
Merchants need to consider their space and ensure PPE products are placed correctly and that they work effectively. For this reason we recommend a proper walk-through or site plans be provided when a retail space is looking to identify the best strategy regarding PPE layout. Holt Renfrew shares: “Health and Safety needs to be top priority and we all have a responsibility to protect ourselves, our colleagues, and our customers. Retailers need to ensure communications and protocols are carefully implemented and staff are trained on preventative measures.” Astley Gilbert worked closely with Holt Renfrew to ensure they would be ready to welcome back its clients in the safest manner possible.
Well thought-out preparedness plans play an important role in how retailers will be viewed by their clientele. Numerous Canadians have been mentally affected by the fear of contracting COVID-19. Walking into a store is no longer a purely enjoyable activity. It now represents a form of undeniable risk. In taking Health Canada’s recommendations seriously, businesses are sending a message to their clients – a clear statement that client/employee safety matters to their firm and your wellbeing will not be jeopardized within their establishment. “Hand sanitization stations will be readily available throughout the stores and entry points. Disposable masks and gloves will be provided for team members to wear in-store and made available for customers who want them. We will open with touchless beauty services and contactless payment methods (i.e. no cash transactions) until further notice.” Holt Renfrew If this situation is not carefully considered by retailers, it could be very costly as customers who feel unsafe within a store will not likely purchase items it sells. Careful consideration and proper use of PPE products gives retailers a chance to make clients feel safe, respected and cared for, which builds customer confidence.
The customization of PPE products will be important in some spaces to ensure the proper fit and can also provide an enhanced design consideration. Mette Johansen Keating, Founder and creative director from mettespace shares: “Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Think about them and what they are experiencing at every step of the experience which now needs to be controlled but ‘feel like shopping’. Signage needs to be effective but should be toned in a friendly, responsible but even playful manner. i.e. “stop signs and ‘do not enter’ signs etc”… should not be used. Go with something softer and perhaps again related or integrated creatively with the brand.” Rather than essential PPE products being a hindrance to brand messaging they can become complementary if well thought out. Eric McEwan, General Manager of the McEwan Group recently had AG custom barriers installed: “Our barriers may be in place for the foreseeable future so I wanted to create something that complemented our current design.” Retailers want to ensure their clients still enjoy a pleasant and effective shopping experience whilst remaining vigilant to ensure they are being responsible and abiding by the Canadian governments guidelines.
COVID-19 is a reality we must all live with and has created a time where caring for clients as retailers has been redefined. Rather than look at PPE products as temporary solutions, it is worth taking the time to ensure that (a range of) PPE products are effectively integrated into your space and create an inviting and safe atmosphere for your clients and employees. Retailers have always been able to pivot and adapt to new realities and with the right technical tools and assistance, it can be done easily to maintain your business going forward.
Anouk Malavoy is the VP, Business development at Astley Gilbert limited by day, spin coach at dawn, charity committee member and freelance writer by night. She is passionate about all she takes on and constantly seeks our new stimulating challenges in order to live her best life. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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