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The effect COVID-19 is having on the retail industry

In usual times, an increase in demand would almost certainly be at the top of the wish-list for any retailer.

But these aren’t usual times, these are unprecedented. And these unprecedented times have sent the supermarkets, and the grocery industry as a whole, into a frenzy.

Experts estimate that grocery retailers will see a sales lift of 30% in the next quarter – from 32% to 62% – as bars and restaurants are shut and consumers are urged to stay at home.

Figures show UK shoppers spent 22% more on grocery purchase last week, compared to the same period in 2019. Nielsen data outlined that consumers spent an additional £467 million over the course of the week versus the same seven days in 2019.

Toilet tissue sales were up by 140%, and facial tissues trading was up by 154%.

Essential retailers

Earlier in the week, new restrictions were brought in by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and the government. Outlined in these restrictions was a detailed list of “essential retailers” that are allowed to stay open during the outbreak:

         Supermarkets and other food shops

         Pharmacies

         Petrol stations

         Newsagents

         Bicycle shops

         Home and hardware stores

         Launderettes and dry cleaners

         Garages

         Pet shops

         Post offices

         Banks


Whilst the frenzy has brought about unsavoury scenes of panicked customers ‘stocking-up’ on large quantities of toilet roll etc, you could argue that retail on the whole has shown a caring and perhaps innovative side in the face of the pandemic.

Dedicated shopping hours for the wonderful front-line NHS staff and also the elderly and vulnerable have been introduced by the majority of supermarkets.

Any Tesco staff who are over the age of 70, vulnerable or pregnant have been told they do not need to work for 12 weeks, but will receive full pay. This is also the case for many of the supermarkets. As well as this, many grocers have initiated plans to pay its smaller suppliers – those which do business worth £1m or less with the grocer – within two days rather than two weeks.

Furthermore, many grocers have initiated a recruitment drive to meet demand. Tesco said on March 20 it would be creating 20,000 new temporary roles across the UK, lasting 12 weeks, to help cope with soaring demand. The grocer also outlined they will pay existing hourly-paid staff a 10% bonus for going “above and beyond” during the pandemic.

In Store

Now more than ever, it is clear that Retailers must put in place measures and initiatives to allow customers to adhere to social distancing regulations when shopping in the designated ‘essential retailers’, as well as providing a safe environment for staff to work in.

On March 24, Lidl announced that it will install checkout protection screens across all its stores.

Earlier today, both ASDA & M&S today have outlined the initatives they are adopting in-store to combat the outbreak. Measures include limiting the number of customers allowed in shops at any one time, POS in the form of floor stickers to ensure social distancing and the installation of protective screens at checkouts.

Asda has also become the latest grocer to install Perspex screens to minimise contact between employees and customers at checkouts, pharmacies and service desks.

Last week, Tesco & Sainsburys both restricted trading times, allowing for staff members to focus certain hours on restocking the shelves. Staff that were previously working on fresh-food counters such as fish and meat and pizza have been redeployed to help stack shelves and maintain availability.

We are here to help…

Should you need installation of social-distancing POS or protective screens within stores – we are operating a business as usual service and are here to help you: 

EMAIL: [email protected]