Staffing issues and clarity over responsibilities are set to affect facilities managers as they prepare for the imminent reopening of high street shops, department stores and shopping centres.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that thousands of high street shops, department stores and shopping centres across England can reopen next month once they are COVID-19 secure and can show customers will be kept safe.
However, Martin Reed, chief executive at Incentive FM Group, has told Facilitate that following the guidelines and planning the reopening of a retail space post lockdown requires “a different pace altogether” compared to a commercial office.
“In a shopping centre of one hundred doors with one hundred queues to manage, is the retailer going to manage that? Or, because it comes out onto the mall, is it the facilities provider that will manage that because that’s the person who normally deals with the common area?
“If that’s the case, normally you’d have six security guards on patrol, but now you might actually need twenty. That is alongside the concierge, extra cleaning staff and a generally higher rotation of staff. At government level they are talking about things that have a significant impact on what we do.”
A report by Centre of Towns published last week, said that "re-opening retail invokes a complex set of challenges for high streets and town centres".
It states that to ensure social distancing a shop or retail space's floor space would have to be divided by 12 (12m² is the safe parameter). In a shop with available floor space of 300 m² it would mean allowing a maximum of 25 people in at one time. Shops may have to create "a one-way system to ensure customers are moved through the store in as safe a manner as possible". Floor markings, screens and internal signage would also have to be used.
The report added: "Retailers have legal and public health obligations to their staff, customers, and the public. This places a heavy responsibility on them and town centre managers. The government must ensure that our retailers and place managers receive overwhelming support when managing this process.
Boots, Sports Direct and Doc Martens are among retailers working with systems company Inurface Group on solutions including an electronic queue management system that keeps a count of how many people are in a shop, allowing store managers to decide how many people it allows to enter.
Josh Bunce, CEO of Inurface Group, told Facilitate: "Over the last couple of months we've developed a people counting and management system that recognises features in your face, knows when you’ve come into the store and when you leave. We then have screens at the door of a shopping centre or retailer; it’s like a traffic light system and indicates whether people can enter or not. That means you can remove that person at the door and use technology to manage the flow of people in and out of the store."
The company is joining others in developing a thermal monitoring camera to read a person's body temperature, and is working on a digital signage hand sanitiser.