Just as retail destinations were looking forward to welcoming customers back into their stores, unhindered by masks and social distancing, a surge in cases of the Delta variant kept England in partial lockdown again. For many it was frustrating news, but emphasises just how disruptive Covid-19 still is.
Alex Sheppard, CEO at UK health tech company, Vatic, questions whether it is time for retail destinations to re-evaluate if they have done enough to protect their business and staff, and why diligent Covid-19 testing is a competitive advantage in the future.
“Many of the business leaders I’ve spoken to in recent weeks have set up recovery funds to try and minimise the impact of the virus on their bottom line,” says Sheppard. “They understand that the pandemic isn’t over, and also recognise their duty of care to protect and support their team so that they can get people back into work willingly.”
He says they also recognise that getting their Covid strategy right could give them a vital competitive edge over the next 12 months: “Given the current uncertainty and confusion, some of their rivals will almost certainly underestimate the risk that still exists, putting in jeopardy their ability to operate without disruption.”
A sensible investment for retailers, he suggests, is regular employee testing, because stopping Covid-positive staff from setting foot in the workplace is the best way to halt its spread, as it only takes a few cases among key employees for a business to suddenly be on the back foot just as it needs to be operating at full strength.
He points out that destination retailers will be particularly vulnerable to this scenario because many of their staff and customers will be younger and not fully vaccinated:
“The government has only recently invited the under-30s to apply for their first Covid jab, and it’s likely that uptake will be slower than in older generations. And even for those employees who are fully vaccinated, it’s still not an absolute guarantee that they can’t catch the virus.”
Fortunately for retailers, staff testing is a lot simpler now, and less invasive than the throat and nostril tests. Saliva-based lateral flow tests, including Vatic’s CE-approved saliva-only rapid Covid test, Know Now, can be easily self-administered by employees before they leave home. Sheppard explains that these tests take just minutes to deliver an accurate result, with each test generating its own unique QR code that can be scanned and checked before they enter the workplace.
“Retailers should use their recovery funds to get an employee testing programme in place now. Not only is it the best way to protect staff, it’s also sure to confer competitive advantage, simply because some retailers will effectively stop the spread of Covid within their workforces, while others won’t,” he adds.
This was first published in Retail Destination Fortnightly. Click here to subscribe.