Coronavirus Guidance for Newsagents and Convenience Stores

During the nationwide lockdown, many people have relied on local shops, convenience stores and newsagents for basic essentials. Whilst the Government has urged people to only go to the shops when necessary, there has still been pressure on the local corner shop to meet the essential needs of their local community. Indeed, in many cases, the local corner shop stepped up to become a backbone of our local communities.

Nevertheless, with more and more trade occurring in local stores around the UK, it's imperative to adhere to the Government's guidance to protect yourselves, and your shoppers, from the spread of coronavirus.

This guidance covers the following:

  1. Social distancing and hygiene
  2. Testing for coronavirus (COVID-19)
  3. Products and pricing
  4. Additional retailer services, such as;
  5. Card not present transactions
  6. Local delivery service
  7. Home news delivery service
  8. Employing workers under 16 years old

1. Social distancing and hygiene

Social distancing guidance for food business, which includes supermarkets and local shops, advises that you need to avoid over-crowding in your store, so ensuring you keep a limit on the number of customers in the store at any one moment is really important. By avoiding over-crowding, customers will be able to keep an adequate space between themselves. The number of customers you can have in your store at any moment varies by store and location. 

 

Effective measures to support this include:

  • monitoring the number of customers within store, and limiting access to avoid congestion
  • implementing queue management systems to limit crowds gathering at entrances and maintaining 2 metres distance
  • reminding customers to only buy what they need
  • using screens or barriers to separate people from each other, where feasible

For more information on the Government's guidance for food business, please visit this link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-food-businesses/guidance-for-food-businesses-on-coronavirus-covid-19

To ensure your staff remain safe, the Government have produced a step by step process for you to keep your staff and shop safely open, while minimising the risk of spreading COVID-19:

  1. Think about the risk, managing the risk, and sharing your risk assessment with your staff
  2. Keep your customers safe by minmising contact, providing and explaining guidance, providing ventilation into the building to ensure fresh air, and if you have customer toilets, keeping your customer toilets open whilst ensuring and promoting good hygiene, and cleanliness.
  3. Who should go to work; you will need to protect your staff who are most at risk, and ensure you encourage your staff to self-isolate if they show any symptoms, or have been in contact with anyone showing any symptoms.
  4. In applying this guidance, employers must still ensure they maintain equality in the workplace and do not discriminate based on age, sex, disability, race or ethnicity.

In the process of running your store, you should ensure workers maintain social distancing guidelines (2m, or 1m with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable), wherever possible, including while arriving at and departing from work, while in work and when travelling between sites.

This might mean you need to update shifts, rotas and timetables to ensure staff to increase a staggered workforce, and reduce overcrowding of workers in the store.

You will only want one person operating your till system for their shift, and try and avoid multiple people using the till system during their working day. The Government specifically says about work stations:

If they need to be shared, they should be shared by the smallest possible number of people. If it is not possible to ensure workstations comply with social distancing guidelines (2m, or 1m with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable), then businesses should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate, and if so take all mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission.

For example, you might want to use a consistent pairing system if workers have to be in close proximity or you might minimise contacts around transactions by using contactless payments only.

For further information about the Government's advice and guidance for working safely in shops, please visit this link: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/shops-and-branches

Face coverings

Face covering are mandatory for customers in shops.

Customers are permitted to remove face coverings for the purposes of identification or when speaking with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound for communication.

Some people don’t have to wear a face covering including for health, age or equality reasons. No one who is exempt from wearing a face covering should be denied entry if they are not wearing one.

The key information to communicate to employees using face coverings is:

  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on, and after removing it
  • when wearing a face covering, avoid touching your face or face covering, as you could contaminate them with germs from your hands
  • change your face covering if it becomes damp or if you’ve touched it
  • continue to wash your hands regularly
  • change and wash your face covering daily
  • if the material is washable, wash in line with manufacturer’s instructions. If it’s not washable, dispose of it carefully in your usual waste
  • practice social distancing wherever possible


What to do if a member of staff shows symptoms of COVID-19?

The first action to take if any employee develops symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) should be to send them home immediately, if they are working at the time, and advise them to follow the "stay at home" guidance, which includes self isolation, and to seek a test.


If the test is positive for coronavirus, then other members of staff who worked with the person infected with coronavirus should be contacted, following the NHS Test and Trace, and they may be asked to self-isolate.

Contact tracing is an important step in stopping the spread of coronavirus.

Becaused of the nature of newsagents, convenience stores and local shops being a food business, the contact tracing process should be escalated to the local Public Health England (PHE) health protection team.

Members of staff who worked with someone who has developed symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) do not need to go home unless they develop symptoms themselves. If they followed social distancing and hygeine guidance, they should be safe to carry on working.

It is not necessary to close the business or workplace or send all staff home.


The shop should be cleaned thoroughly, including:

  • objects which are visibly contaminated with body fluids
  • all potentially contaminated high-contact areas such as bathrooms, door handles, telephones, grab-rails in corridors and stairwells

Use disposable cloths or paper roll and disposable mop heads, to clean all hard surfaces, floors, chairs, door handles and sanitary fittings, following one of the options below:

  • use either a combined detergent disinfectant solution at a dilution of 1,000 parts per million available chlorine, or
  • a household detergent followed by disinfection (1000 ppm av.cl.). Follow manufacturer’s instructions for dilution, application and contact times for all detergents and disinfectants, or
  • if an alternative disinfectant is used within the organisation, this should be checked and ensure that it is effective against enveloped viruses
  • Avoid creating splashes and spray when cleaning.
  • Any cloths and mop heads used must be disposed of and should be put into waste bags as outlined below.
  • When items cannot be cleaned using detergents or laundered, for example, upholstered furniture and mattresses, steam cleaning should be used.
  • Any items that are heavily contaminated with body fluids and cannot be cleaned by washing should be disposed of.

2. Testing

All convenience retailers and their staff are deemed as essential workers, and are therfore eligible for COVID-19 testing. Tests for essential workers are prioritised over the tests available for the wider public through the NHS.

For more information on testing, please visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/testing-and-tracing/



3. Products and Pricing

Shops can continue selling a full range of products. You are providing an essential service that is helping your local community.

The ACS has published guidance relating to some retailers experiencing some increased cost prices due to scarcity of some products in the supply chain. Here's what the ACS say:

As a retailer you are then faced with a choice of passing this cost on, but possibly being perceived as profiteering from the current situation. Clear communication is your best approach in tackling this, for example:

  1. Putting up a poster explaining that some supply prices have gone up and that these may be reflected in your prices to customers.
  2. Adding the supply price of certain affected products next to the retail price.
  3. Responding to customer complaints in person or on social media by explaining the relevant facts.

Any cases of profiteering during the coronavirus pandemic may be reported and investigated by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). If you identify any profiteering, you can report suspected instances of price profiteering here: https://www.coronavirus-business-complaint.service.gov.uk/

4. Delivery services

Local shops, newsagents, and convenience stores are already playing an important role in keeping your communities supplied with food, and other essentials.

But could you do more. Could you:

  1. Offer a delivery servive, maybe specifically for the most vulnerable customers?
  2. Could you partner with a local charity to help vulnerable people, such as the elderly or disabled?
  3. Offer a delivery service to people in self-isolation?

If you're already operating a delivery service, then you may already be aware of some of the things you can do to help customers who simply cannot make it to your store. This includes:

Card not present transactions

Card not present (CNP) payments are an option for customers who are unable to come into store, the details are typically provided over the phone by the customer and entered by the retailer into the card terminal. The use of CNP transactions for in-store shopping is therefore an unusual measure, but one which can in help customers during the period of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Home delivery service

More convenience retailers are looking at home delivery as an option to reach local customers that are self-isolating or otherwise unable to travel to their local shop. This new guidance details what retailers should consider when starting a home delivery service.

Home news delivery

The World Health Organization is advising that the risk of contracting COVID-19 from receiving letters and parcels is low. COVID-19 does not survive long on objects, such as letters or parcels, and this will be the same for newspapers and magazines.

Is there anything more you can do?

Can you optimise minimal contact even further by making your store cashless? 

Can you install self-checkouts?

Are you automating stock replenishment? 

Do you have an intelligent stock system that can help to manage your supply chain?

These are all areas that a smart EPOS system can assist your business in. 


For more information on how an innovative and smart EPOS can strengthen your business, contact us today!