Responsible reopening

Tony Elvin, general manager at Solihull’s Touchwood Shopping Centre talks customer safety, footfall driving strategy, and supporting retailers

Now that their doors are reopening, what role will customer service play in the revival of non-essential retail and leisure?

Customer Service at it’s very best is about the guest experience and that just can’t be replicated online. If the pandemic has highlighted anything it is the importance of having these face-to-face interactions from day-to-day when we’re either shopping, eating out or simply picking up a coffee.

How do you re-connect with shoppers who have been repeatedly shut away for months at a time?

We know that the number one driver for guest visits right now is health and safety. All the research points to it. So, for now, it is all about reassurance. Reassurance that we are being responsible in our re-opening, that we are following all the guidelines, and visibly demonstrating them to our guests within the centre and through our social media platforms before they even arrive.

We are confident that we have created the safest possible environment for our guests, one that can help them relax and get back to some of the normality we have all craved. 

What measures will you have in place to ensure consumers feel safe?

[We have implemented] robust Covid-secure operations, including contactless car park ticket collection and payments, one way systems, enhanced cleaning regimes, additional directional and security staff and importantly, and managed centre capacity through our live footfall counting system to ensure the centre is never too busy. Our team are working tirelessly to ensure guests are wearing masks and following the one way system.  

The pandemic has given rise to an online retail boom – how do you entice shoppers back to retail destinations?

It shouldn’t really be a case of online or physical retail. Convenience has always been the key driver so the most successful brands are operating a hybrid online / bricks and mortar proposition. Guests want the convenience to order from their sofa but also want to be able to collect items from the store or return them to the store rather than going to the post office. That flexibility explains the halo affect that drives higher online sales for stores that have physical premises in the area.

What work are you doing with your tenants to support them and drive up footfall?

Many of our stores and hospitality venues operate their own loyalty schemes to drive footfall and sales. We  focus on giving them a platform to shout about their loyalty programmes. We have also always supported our stores and venues with footfall driving events but at the moment, with the focus on health and safety and not driving footfall for footfall’s sake, events have had to take a back seat, however, we look forward to driving footfall through events very soon.

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