From the first step inside a grocery store, it’s apparent how much COVID-19 has affected sanitation and disinfection practices. Many stores now have stations set up with spray bottles of cleaners, paper towels and wipes for customers to clean their carts before they start shopping. Others have posted dedicated staff at entryways to sanitize carts right in front of shoppers.
- In tandem with increased consumer concerns, retailers have stepped up their sanitation practices since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Along with rigorous deep-cleaning protocols, grocers are making use of such solutions as hand-sanitizing stations, portable sinks, ultraviolet-C light disinfection systems and improved HVAC to lower the risk of viral transmission.
- Proper training of associates goes hand in hand with enhanced sanitation measures and practices.
Inside the store, various sanitation practices visually demonstrate a retailer’s commitment to protect customers the best they can from exposure to COVID-19. As with carts, these practices are often a combination of personal cleaning via mobile hand-sanitizing stations or wipes, and employees tasked with regular or constant sanitation of touchpoints such as door handles and knobs, countertops, basket handles, and case rails.
In addition to consumer-facing sanitation measures, grocers are taking other steps behind the scenes to reduce the risk of viral spread. While less visible, these tools – many of them newly implemented in retail settings — are important in keeping physical spaces and employees who interact with consumers and products as clean as possible.
Stepped-up sanitation is the right thing to do, and it’s also important to today’s wary consumers. According to the 2020 “U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends” report released this summer by FMI — The Food Industry Association, 57% of consumers say that keeping the store sanitized is a priority, and 52% say that providing wipes for carts is a priority. The same survey found that 54% of shoppers are concerned about being exposed to the virus from other shoppers, and 44% report that they worry about picking up the virus from store surfaces.
Worried consumers can benefit from systems that do the cleaning for them and by being educated about proper protocols and techniques. One study conducted for Missoula, Montana-based sanitation provider Cennox reveals that 50% of shoppers wrongly believe that bleach and alcohol wipes immediately kill the virus that causes COVID-19.
“In the case of alcohol and bleach solutions, these can take up to 10 minutes to be effective, so if anyone else carrying COVID-19 has used your basket, trolley or payment terminal in that time, it will have done nothing to stop the spread of infection,” points out Nick Cockett, COO at Cennox, noting that education and enhanced sanitation techniques go hand in hand.
Stationed for Sanitation
Apart from hygiene solutions for shoppers and employees, retailers are deploying several other methods of sanitation and disinfection to safeguard against viral transmission on contact surfaces, or fomites, within their stores.
A deep clean during off hours, performed by third-shift employees or outside sanitation contractors, has become daily protocol since the pandemic began last spring. To enhance sanitation and show consumers that they take cleanliness seriously, grocers are adding to that by cleaning throughout the day, sometimes on a near-constant basis.
To ensure the effectiveness of various elements of in-store sanitation, retailers need to work closely with their employees. Posting wall charts and signing off on sanitation checklists are relatively easy ways to make sure that sanitation tasks get done.
Training also goes hand in hand with sanitation measures and practices. That’s especially true with the use of UV-C light and in regard to certain chemicals that aren’t effective or can be downright dangerous for employees or customers if not used properly.