Face Masks: the impact to UK business and why you should care
First of all, let’s make this clear – this is not a political article and is purely focused on the business impact of the general public now being faced with compulsory mask-wearing in certain circumstances.
From 24th July 2020, is has become mandatory for everyone to wear a face-covering in shops and supermarkets in England, as well as on public transport. If they don’t, the individual may face a fine of up to £100 and as of a few days ago, the first person in Scotland was fined for refusing to wear a mask.
Many small business owners are hoping face coverings will start to bring back consumers as confidence increases.
The Government Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chair Mike Cherry, said “Facemasks and coverings can provide a certain level of protection to people you come into close contact with, which could help to stop the spread of the disease and to help get back to business as soon as possible.
“But at a time when we want to encourage footfall to increase in our town centres and high streets, councils and government should help small firms either by delivering masks or by offering funding for the purchase of masks so that customers aren’t turned away.
“While some shoppers may still be nervous, small firms will be hoping that these new measures will inject new confidence into customers and get them back into town centres and high streets across the nation."
Smaller spaces such as shops and supermarket aisles make social distancing more difficult and they introduce a higher risk of close contact with people.
The new rule doesn’t apply to cafes, restaurants and pubs as it wouldn’t be practical to wear a face mask.
Children under 11 and those with certain disabilities are also exempt.
Why you should care
If your customers don’t feel safe and/or don’t trust you – you lose money. In a recent survey, 30% of UK respondents said that they wear a face mask in public and this is likely to rise to near US and Germany level of 70%.
Let’s look at an example. Let’s say a safety-conscious customer enters a small shop and sees another customer (or worse – an employee) without a face mask handling goods and holding them close to their face reading a label. Would you blame them if they left without additional items nearby, or left without buying anything at all?
In a report by Goldman Sachs, they estimate that a mask-wearing mandate, rather than a renewed lockdown, could completely prevent a 5% subtraction from GDP.
Putting steps in place to keep customers safe, and training employees correctly is vital to ensure your business survives and thrives.
One approach to this national change is to treat it like the removal of smoking indoors at the end of the 80s and the subsequent smoking ban. It’s morbid but living customers spend far more than dead ones.
What should your business be doing?
The pandemic has seen many small businesses band together to fight coronavirus in creative ways but there are many simple things you can do to reassure customers.
- Increase the frequency of employees washing their hands
- Increase the frequency of cleaning surfaces
- Use screens or barriers to separate customers from each other and staff
- Where employees need to work closer together position them (or the workstations) so they are back-to-back rather than face-to-face.
- Try to keep employees working with the same team members to limit exposure.
Where exceptions are in place, you should also be collecting customer details under NHS Test and Trace.
Training for employees should be simple with instructions given as clearly as possible. Some things to consider:
- Where cleaning supplies are kept.
- The right way to use cleaning supplies.
- When to wear gloves.
- How to correctly wear masks.
Remember that this isn’t just about keeping customers safe, consumer perception will also be a big factor.
Are you looking at your approach to digital services as a result of the pandemic? Perhaps you’re looking at your website, social engagement or even a mobile app. If so, get in touch or a no-obligation chat about your requirements.
In the mood for a bit of fun?
Check out our list of Ten funny face masks to make people smile.