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What retailers need to consider for their lockdown contingency plan

In light of recent Covid-19 outbreaks in Sydney and the short notice some retailers had in the South Australia lockdown, I thought it prudent to ensure The Party People had a lockdown contingency plan to execute on short notice.

The Party People has three plans for a lockdown:

  • Soft Lockdown Plan
    • This is where there is some notice from the government in which the retail store must close but work can be performed in the store
  • Hard Lockdown Plan
    • This is where there is some notice from the government in which people cannot come to work at all
  • Immediate Shutdown Plan
    • This is where no notice is given for a full store closure such as if a case is detected at the store and a deep clean is required.

Here are some of the key elements we considered when creating each of our plans:

Safety

The highest priority when creating a plan is the safety of your teams. Given a lockdown is a serious step, it’s recommended that your precautions go well above and beyond the legal requirements for Covid-19 safety measures. The tips in this article do not consider your specific workplace circumstances and so please consider your own workplace environment and its safety measures when creating this plan.

Notice

When creating your plan, consider that you might only have 24 hours notice of a lockdown. The plan could take a day (or even a few days) to create and by then it is too late to execute some key elements before the lockdown occurs. As such it’s extremely important to have the plan ready to execute. The execution of the plan is also stretched in the 24 hours which is another reason that it’s critical to have a plan ready to execute to put time on your side.

The key issue with such short notice of a lockdown is that you have a lot to do in a very short period. Consider advising staff they might be needed for overtime just prior to a lockdown if it occurs or they might be required for multiple shifts (e.g. 2 x 8 hrs shift) in which the operation might operate for the full 24 hours prior to the lockdown deadline.

Staff management

It might be prudent to have a “lockdown” roster created for each type of lockdown. This will involve determining what tasks can be managed remotely (such as monitoring email addresses or even redirecting phones) and allocate those tasks to staff. The access needs to be set up or a plan in place to activate that access/diversion so it can be executed (if a plan is in place then it needs to be tested to ensure no last minute technical difficulties). Consider any tasks you can that might help to keep staff active particularly those tasks which may have been projects for a while that you never got to. It’s also important to understand the general stand down provisions and those associated specifically with Covid-19 if you are eligible for Jobkeeper as you may want to consider standing down some (or all) of your team.

Customer communication plan

Consider the sales pipeline and last mile for your customers and how this might need to be managed differently. You may need to call all customers who have placed orders and ask them what they want to do. For example if you have click and collect, you might want to call those customers to advise them your closing so they can pick it up to avoid them cancelling if they try later when you’re closed. You might consider making a digital copy of any in-store orders or paperwork that will be stored somewhere that is remotely accessible by your team so that any calls or issues can be managed remotely. Contacting customers might result in cancellations that your normal policy may not allow, consider how you might provide flexibility given the current situation to those customers such allowing a full refund or store credit.

Supplier communication

Contact your suppliers and advise them of your closure. Particularly freight suppliers inbound and outbound.

Review plan before activation

A lockdown will always have specific elements to it. So on announcement of a lockdown, management should meet immediately to determine how the specific elements might affect the contingency plan and they might need to adjust it accordingly.

Communicate externally

Ensure phone systems, website, search engines (Google and Bing for example allow for a Covid message) and social media are updated with an announcement to customers. You will also need a sign to put on your doors. The message should include what your operation is doing over the lockdown and also any contact details where people might be able to ask questions such as an email address (which would be monitored remotely).

Communicate internally

Ensure you work your contingency plan through with your teams to ensure you haven’t missed any details they might think of also, to bring them along the journey to avoid a surprise if you do have to activate the plan and to ensure they are all aware of it.

So if you don’t have a contingency plan, I hope I have helped you create one. Please provide me with feedback below on anything I might have missed or specifics of your plan you think people might need to consider.

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