Retail struggle in January 2020

As the number of COVID-19 infections continue to rise in parts of the country, it is important that all NRA members, regardless of their location, remain vigilant.

Retailers have also had to face an increase in anti-social, aggressive and sometimes violent behaviour from customers. Indeed, since the outbreak of COVID-19, retail crime intelligence platform, Auror  reports that violence towards retail workers from customers has risen by a substantial 17 per cent.

In the last 48 hours that upward spike in threatening behaviour has manifested itself with a video going viral showing a woman abusing several Bunnings staff members. Due to the store being located in one of the Victorian hotspots, thus a government requirement for all people leaving home to wear facial covering, the woman point blank refuses to comply with protocol and wear a mask. Instead, she badgers and abuses the Bunnings workers who are merely doing their job.

This behaviour is selfish, inconsiderate and inappropriate. The health and safety of everyone – shoppers and workers – should be the number one priority. The workers involved did handle the situation well and remained calm throughout, but the incident does underline the need to stay alert to any bullying behaviour. I remind you all that you do reserve the right to refuse entry to your premises, as they are private property. You can ask customers to comply with a direction that has come from the Victorian government, and that can be enforced by police within Victoria. However, it is not the retailers responsibility to enforce the rule. If the situation escalates, please phone your local police department to intervene.

It can be difficult to maintain your composure in the face of difficult customers, and even more so when a camera is recording you. Again, we commend the cool headed staff at Bunnings for providing clear and calm direction. If you would like to speak to our team about putting strategies in place in the event of a difficult customers, you can speak to our team at 1800 RETAIL. The National Retail Association also offers training in dealing with difficult customers, and if you would like more information for yourself or your team you can reach out here.

We urge all of you to be on the lookout for any poor conduct and ensure that staff are supported in any such events. It’s a frustrating time for many people, particularly in Victoria which is experiencing a second-wave of the virus, but that does not give shoppers the right to flout safety protocols or to unload their frustrations on retail workers.

The NRA has also released our tips and recommendations regarding facial masks. While wearing a mask in public is only mandatory in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, many of you (if you’re not already) may be considering implementing such a measure in your business. In which case, it’s important you have a detailed understanding of where to source masks, ensure staff are adequately trained and know how to enforce such measures.

The NRA has created signage for your store to inform shoppers they are required to wear a mask. However, if they refuse to comply, we urge you to contact the police. You can download the full document outlining facial covering tips here.

Last week, the NRA finalised a partnership with Zebra Technologies to promote innovation in the retail sector. COVID-19 has had a giant impact on consumer behaviour and highlighted how volatile demand can be during uncertain times.

While events such as COVID-19 and the summer bushfires have demonstrated that you can’t stop the rise and fall in demand for products, you can predict, and ultimately beat it. Changing consumer habits means retailers must strategically shift their business models to maintain a competitive edge in this challenging time.

Join Zebra’s APAC Vertical Solutions Marketing Lead, George Pepes and Director of Global Sales Zebra Analytics, Yonatan Olsha for a webinar this Wednesday to discover how you can modernise your supply chain to absorb disruption, whilst maximising your existing in-store operations to boost customer satisfaction. You can register your attendance here.

All the best for the week and keep well.