Q&A: Workman’s Nick Hilton talks keeping shopping centres clean

Retail Destination spoke to Nick Hilton, partner in Workman’s retail and leisure team, about what Workman have been doing to make sure their centres are Covid-19 safe.

What have Workman’s retail destinations been doing to make their environments safe for shoppers?

“At Workman we manage 95 shopping centres across the UK and have invested a lot of time and resource into reviewing and enhancing our cleaning regimes to make sure that the environment is as safe as possible for shoppers.

“At centres including the Treaty Centre in Hounslow, Crystal Peaks in Sheffield, and Touchwood in Solihull we have introduced enhanced cleaning of high touch-point areas, with emphasis on lift buttons and handrails. We have added hand sanitiser stations at all entrance and exit points, increased clear and bold signage to streamline crowd flow, and installed screens between escalators to help maintain social distancing. We have also segregated the main entrances to create one-way systems, removed the food court seating and soft play areas and keep a live count of visitors to monitor and control footfall to assist with social distancing measures.

What measures have you put in place to ensure the safety of those working in our centres ‘on the front line’ as it were?

“In addition to these public facing measures, we have taken steps to keep our staff safe, increasing training and introducing ‘Sneeze guard’’’ screens at customer facing counters. We are monitoring the number of customers using the facilities and use technology like Springboard to monitor shopper behaviour and congestion. Beyond that, we have increased staff and added regular public address announcements to reassure guests and advise them of centre safety policies.

“At Touchwood in Solihull we have added contactless car park ticket dispensers, to both reduce contact and remove the need for queuing. We are also implementing measures to reduce queuing for individual stores and have used a vacant unit as a waiting area for retailers that are operating on an appointment-only basis.

“We have avoided introducing sanitiser fogging or temperature checks on entry. We feel that resources are better spent on cleaning touch points than cleaning surfaces that cannot be reached. They may also be an irritant for anyone with allergies or sensory sensitivities. With many Covid-19 carriers seemingly a-symptomatic, there is little benefit in introducing infrared monitoring, which is more likely to slow entry to the centre down and then, counter-productively, impact on social distancing.

“Our priority is to make sure that guests feel safe when returning to our managed shopping centres. We have produced several safety videos to showcase safety measures and brief the public on their own part to play in shopping responsibly.

How did you decide what measures to put in place at your centres?

“Across our portfolio, we prepared initial risk assessments prior to re-opening, However, we are constantly reviewing measures across our centres and working closely with occupiers to keep abreast of the latest Government advice, requirements, and legislation, such as the deployment of Track & Trace QR codes.

It’s one thing to do the work to make sure shoppers are protected – but how do you go about making shoppers aware that your centres are safe and hygienic environments?

“Increasing the visibility of our cleaning teams, clear signage and prominent sanitiser points go a long way to help reassure shoppers. We have updated our messaging across centre websites and social media channels to communicate with visitors, so they know the measures we are putting in place.

“We have also produced videos to let people know what to expect when they visit and are liaising with local media outlets where possible to highlight the steps we are taking and reassure people that it is safe to shop again.

Do you think this pandemic has changed cleanliness expectations and practices in the long term?

“Certainly, some customers will expect hand sanitiser points and more visible cleaning to be in place in the long-term. Covid-19 will have made some customers more wary of the risk of future pandemics and they will expect measures to be in place irrespective of Covid-19. Other customers will be keen to get back to normal as soon as possible. Ultimately, we will need to be guided by our customers’ expectations and Government guidance.

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