Walpole wholeheartedly welcomes yesterday’s letter to retailers from the Rt Hon Alok Sharma, the Secretary of State for Business.
In it he clarified that “the government has always been clear that online retail can continue to operate and is encouraged, and that postal and delivery services will continue to operate.” and that, whilst the advice is that wherever possible people should work from home, they understand that for many, your job requires you to travel to your place of work and “you can continue to do so. This is consistent with the Chief Medical Officer’s advice”.
This message comes at an important time - we will not be able to recover as quickly as possible from the crisis unless brands are able to keep doing business, albeit in a reduced capacity. In some instances - hospitality for example - this is almost impossible, but for Walpole’s retail members, online sales are a lifeline.
British luxury brands are continuing to follow government advice and guidelines when it comes to making sure that their employees who not able to work from home are working safely - and updated government guidelines can be found here.
In addition, the British Retail Consortium has offered specific guidance for social distancing in warehouses and distribution centres which Walpole endorses.
When it comes to best practice for online retailers in the British luxury community, Walpole suggests that your policies and actions for looking after the safety of your staff who are unable to work from home are visible to customers on your website, in addition to being displayed at the place of work.
Below is a particularly good example from the high-street retailer New Look:
Q: How are New Look looking after their people during Covid-19?
Since we temporarily closed our stores things have continued to change for all of us on a daily basis, and we want to make sure you are up to date with everything we are doing to keep our people safe. We are continuously monitoring the situation and are ensuring we abide by any guidance received from the government as the situation progresses.
Q: Is your warehouse still operating/ Can I still order from you?
Yes you can still place orders.
We have limited the available delivery options to ensure we can operate our warehouse with a reduced workforce. This allows us to ensure that we can further safeguard that those that continue to work, by giving them significantly more distance from each other than the 2 metre minimum.
We have taken additional steps to ensure our warehouse is a safe space for our staff to work in by putting the following measures in place:
• Reduced the number of staff working at any one time
• Introduced additional cleaning routines with more frequent cleaning of high traffic areas
• Adapted the working environment to help ensure social distancing can be maintained at all times
• Providing hand sanitiser and ensuring all our staff are washing their hands on a regular basis
• Limited the use of all confirmed and shared spaces; i.e. break rooms, canteens and smoking areas
We are also working closely with our staff and onsite Health and Safety teams to understand any concerns that they have.
Q: Is it safe to receive parcels?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 (Coronavirus) from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low. All our warehouse staff and delivery couriers are fully informed of the precautionary safety measures in place to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
Q: If I am in isolation how will they deliver my parcel?
All delivery couriers have been advised to reduce contact with customers. Orders can be requested for safe place delivery (where available).
Q: Will I be required to sign on the portable delivery device as usual?
In the current situation, Royal Mail and DPD will not be asking any customer to handle PDAs and will record the delivery location on their device. Some couriers are able to take a picture of the delivery location for reference.
Q: What if I don't want to accept an item at all for fear of contamination?
Deliveries can be refused. You can request a return to us or to the delivery depot/collection point. For parcels that are not delivered, a refund will be processed once the order has arrived back to our warehouse.
Q: How else are we helping people?
• We have extended out returns policy to 90 days.
• We are offering 25% off all full priced items for our NHS and service heroes through www.bluelightcard.co.uk and www.defencediscountservice.co.uk. Because we appreciate everything they are doing during this difficult time.
• All of our Head Office teams are working from home and will continue to do so in line with the Government advice.
• We understand it can be hard for people to be indoors every day, so we are running wellbeing sessions online for all of our employees, including tips on staying connected.
• Following the closure of our stores, many of our retail staff donated perishable goods from our stores to local hospitals, food banks and emergency services.