May 19, 2020
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Stores to 'quarantine' products shoppers handle as part of reopening plans

May 19, 2020

As shops prepare to reopen next month, measures are being put in place to keep staff and customers safe, and ideas such as ‘quarantining’ products that have been handled by shoppers are being looked at.

Items that in-store shoppers handle could be taken off the shop floor to be quarantined

The only retailer to come out so far and say it will definitely quarantine items after they’ve been handled is bookseller Waterstones. It will have a system in place for any book handled but not bought to be taken off the shop floor for 72 hours.

And there’s likely to be a similar approach taken by fashion stores, especially given that clothes that have been tried on could be in even more danger of picking up virus samples than a book would. This could, of course, create huge logistical challenges with the potential for huge percentages of shop floor stock to be in quarantine at any one time.

Government guidance says retailers have to “consider very carefully whether fitting rooms should be open, given the challenges in operating them safely”. And if fitting rooms are opened up, shops need to create “procedures to manage clothes that have been tried on, for example delaying their return to the shop floor”. They also need to clean fitting rooms between each use, potentially making it extremely difficult to operate them, although that will depend very much on how heavy footfall might be.

Returns also need to be kept apart from other stock until any potential virus traces will be inactive.

Meanwhile, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield’s plans to open its two London mega-malls will include one-way systems, cameras monitoring footfall so it can be controlled at a safe level, clear 2-metre-distancing markers and extra cleaning. Car park spaces will be reduced so shoppers can only use alternate parking bays.

Scott Parsons, the firm’s regional MD for the UK and Italy, told the Evening Standard: “We don’t underestimate the importance of getting these measures right, not only to ensure everyone coming in to our centres is safe, but that they also feel confident that their wellbeing is genuinely being considered at every point.”

Bluewater part-owner Landsec is taking a similar approach with distance-marked floor stickers, new sanitising stations and queues managed by security and concierge staff.

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