With public toilets facing a lack of proper funds, retail destinations are poised to keep consumers clean
The British Toilet Association (BTA), a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the promotion of toilet hygiene, has recently reacted critically to news that Westminster is urging councils to reopen public toilets. Since the start of the pandemic, the lack of open public toilets has caused a great deal of distress and discomfort, especially for those with medical conditions that require quick and easy access to such facilities.
One Guardian investigation undertaken last summer revealed that the pandemic-era closure of public toilets resulted in people dehydrating themselves or relieving themselves in public spaces – neither option being good for public health.
In the absence of any firm moves on behalf of Westminster or local authorities to reinstate public toilets, Matt Anderson, director at hand dryer supplier Velai, says it is time for businesses – especially large, multi-purpose, high footfall businesses like shopping centres – to ensure that their restrooms are fit for purpose.
“Businesses can fill the gap left by limited public toilet funding,” says Anderson. “Investing sensibly in high-quality sanitation technology will not only attract and retain consumers – especially those that cannot find facilities elsewhere – but will also demonstrate the cost-effectiveness and better environmental impacts of the latest facilities.”
The value that good restroom facilities add to a business can be substantial. In a Finnish study of 455 respondents, it was found that 66 per cent of customers will recommend a shopping venue provided its cleanliness levels meet a sufficiently high standard, with 30 per cent of respondents adding that clean bathroom facilities matter in a shopping centre setting.
Anderson says that it would be a mistake to imagine that upgraded bathrooms are solely for the benefit of the customer, as utilising the latest sanitation technology is ‘the definition’ of a win-win situation.
Touchless taps and waterless urinals, for example, are both becoming more prominent, and are relatively cheap to run, he tells: “In a pandemic scenario, the lack of touch points associated with touchless technology is very welcome, of course, but both pieces of technology also reduce water costs by limiting the amount of wasted water.”
Of course, he says, there are more reasons to upgrade bathroom facilities than money alone: “The current climate is, in fact, on the public’s mind in a very literal sense. Climate change is becoming more and more difficult to ignore, with the UN recently declaring a ‘code red for emergency’ – a stark warning of environmental catastrophe.”
He believes that water reduction from touchless taps and the use of hand dryers with a yearly carbon emission as low as 52kg will not go unnoticed by a public increasingly aware of environmental impact.
“It’s clear that the BTA is absolutely right to call for funding and support for public toilets,” says Anderson. “However, in lieu of government support for these facilities, businesses like shopping centres can absolutely fill that gap, allowing for an inclusive day out for people with certain health conditions while providing an experience that is COVID safe, environmentally conscious, and cost-effective.”
This was first published in Retail Destination Fortnightly. Click here to subscribe.