// Co-op & Halfords have announced new measures to enforce social distancing in its stores
// Co-op joins the Big 4, M&S, Waitrose & Aldi in introducing 2 metre queue markers, checkout protection screens, in-store customer limits
// Halfords will not longer allow customers inside stores, with services taking place outside
The Co-op and Halfords have announced new measures to enforce social distancing in its stores in a bid to protect customers and staff from the spread of coronavirus.
The Co-op is the latest in a growing list of grocers to have introduced a range of measures across its 2600 stores, including floor markers which will define a one-metre distance throughout the store and two-metre spacing for customer queues.
The retailer is also aiming to limit the number of customers in stores at any one time as well as reducing the number of tills open, to allow greater distance between shoppers.
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“The safety and wellbeing of our colleagues is our priority and we fully support the need for social distancing,” Co-op chief operating officer Chris Whitfield said.
“We have introduced a number of measures in store, which will be reviewed on a daily basis, and we thank our customers for their understanding and support.
“We are immensely proud of our frontline colleagues and the work they are doing at this unprecedented time to serve our customers, members and local communities but we urge our customers to follow the government advice to only shop for essential items and to be considerate of others when they are shopping.”
The Co-op added that to encourage the message to stay at home, its stores will have reduced opening hours to give staff time to re-stock while also encouraging contactless shopping where possible to reduce the handling of cash and speed up checkout.
Additional hand sanitiser, antibacterial wipes and soap have been provided to all stores.
Meanwhile, Halfords said it was “fundamentally changing” the way its stores operate, announcing that customers will not be able to enter them.
Services and collections will be provided from the front of stores, all within the social distancing rules, while workers in the most vulnerable groups have been asked to stay at home.
“Our aim is to keep the key workers and businesses that are important to the Covid-19 response moving,” a statement from the retailer said.
Halfords group chief executive Graham Stapleton said: “I am really proud of our colleagues and how they are supporting us in our commitment to playing our part in keeping the UK and Ireland moving.
“However, we will only continue to play our role if we can ensure the health and safety of our colleagues and customers, and compliance with government policy.
“That’s why we are reshaping how our stores serve local communities across Britain.”
The news comes as some of the UK’s biggest retailers introduce stricter measures for the safety of staff and customers in response to the coronavirus crisis.
Like the Co-op, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Asda have plans to limit the number of shoppers allowed into their stores at any given time.
Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis wrote to customers saying staff will draw new floor markings in the checkout areas, install protective screens on checkouts, and introduce one-way aisles.
“Our social distancing plans aim to protect customers from the moment they enter our car parks, to browsing products, to paying and finally exiting our stores,” he wrote.
In a letter to customers, Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe said the number of people allowed in stores and at ATMs at any one time will be limited.
He also said queuing systems would be put in place outside stores and people are urged to arrive throughout the day to avoid long queues forming in the morning, and encouraged people to pay by card.
“We will be reminding people in stores to keep a safe distance from other customers and from our colleagues,” Coupe said.
Coupe added that the number of checkouts will be reduced and protection screens will be introduced for checkout staff.
He said many customers have written to him to say they are elderly or vulnerable and are struggling to book online delivery slots.
“We are doing our absolute best to offer online delivery slots to elderly, disabled and vulnerable customers. These customers have priority over all slots,” Coupe said.
“Our customer careline has been inundated with requests from elderly and vulnerable customers – we have had one year’s worth of contacts in two weeks.
“We have proactively contacted 270,000 customers who had already given us information that meant we could identify them as being in these groups.”
Coupe, who apologised to regular online customers, and said they have already booked in slots for 115,000 elderly, disabled and vulnerable customers this week.
Meanwhile, Sainsbury’s said it was temporarily closing 12 convenience stores which have seen “significantly fewer customers in recent days as people are working from home”.
The employees will move to neighbouring stores until these stores re-open.
Elsewhere, shoppers at Asda have seen changes including markers on the floor to help customers keep two metres apart, barriers, signs and announcements.
The supermarket has also asked shoppers to ditch cash in favour of card payments.
Other grocers that introduced new and strict social distancing measures in recent days, – including the two-metre markings at queues, the limit on customer numbers in store, and protection screens at checkouts – include Morrisons, Waitrose, Aldi and Marks & Spencer’s food stores.
On the other hand, Lloyds Pharmacy said that only two customers would be allowed into its stores at any one time.
The pharmacy chain will adopt a strict two-in two-out policy.
“We need to ensure people keep two metres apart and that we give our colleagues the time to dispense medicines safely and in a timely way,” chief executive Toby Anderson said.
We are asking customers to be a little more tolerant of waiting times and, at times, this may mean waiting outside the pharmacy.
Lloyds also said it is looking to fill 1500 vacancies.
These will firstly be filled by staff moving from other areas, and staff members’ family members will also be given preference.
All non-essential stores were given a government-mandated order to close on Monday, as Brit are told to stay inside as much as possible and only leave for supplies and a short daily exercise.
Grocery stores, convenience stores, off-licences, bike and motor vehicle service stores, hardware stores and pharmacies can remain open as they were classified as “essential”.
with PA Wires