CSA Exclusive: Spotlight on store sanitization

Deena Amato-McCoy
SPECS Program Director
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The pandemic forced retailers to rethink how to sanitize shared spaces. Committed to supporting employee and customer health, retailers are creating new health policies and procedures, and adopting new equipment, such as innovative air filters, to deliver safer shopping environments.

That’s according toJessica Rose Cooper, chief commercial officer for International Well Building Institute (IWBI), which work to bring health-focused design and policy solutions to diverse buildings and human environments worldwide.

Cooper spoke with Chain Store Age about how retailers are renewing their commitment to store-level health and safety.

How has the pandemic impacted retail facilities maintenance?

Retailers are now tasked with understanding and implementing strategies to support public health, and this includes rethinking their spaces from a health and wellness lens.

For many retailers, this new normal will include updating policies and procedures to facilitate a healthy and safe facility for all and implementing maintenance procedures designed to enhance indoor health and safety and reduce the risk of disease transmission.  It also means increasing customer communication, education and signage to capture important updates, activities and information.

What sanitization initiatives can position retailers for long-term success?

Retailers need to be continually evolving their processes so we can respond more efficiently to future circumstances. For example, it is critical for operators to implement rigorous cleaning practices among high-touch areas, such as doorknobs, handles, switches and countertops, among other locations. They should also keep a cleaning log to increase accountability.

There is work to be done on the air quality side as well. For example, it is critical to keep indoor air as fresh as possible. This can be achieved by filtering fresh outdoor air into stores. Operators should start the process by evaluating their filtration system and introducing outdoor air on a real-time basis. This machinery should also run after hours when the retail space is not in use. Some retailers are also reducing customer capacities, a move that keeps more fresh air in the space and provides customers with more fresh air, as well.

The second line of defense is stepping up filtration practices. This could include installing HEPA or MERV-13 filters that increase particulate filtration capabilities. These filters are designed to catch larger particles that the COVID-19 virus attaches itself to and remove them from air.

If companies do not have the ability to make these changes, they can consider adding an air purifier in retail spaces. These stand-alone units also help mitigate air transmission.

What advice can you give retailers committed to keeping their stores safe for customers and employees?

While design, operations and protocols (open doors and windows, enhanced cleaning measures, social distancing) all play a critical role in minimizing transmission, the most important thing any retailer can do is encourage people (customers and employees) to wear a mask properly and stay home when they feel sick.

What can retailers do to manage customer expectations regarding safety?

We are constantly learning new information about the COVID-19 pandemic and, with that, continually enhancing guidance around best practices. That's why it is so critical that retailers not only take an evidence-based, holistic approach to fighting the virus, but also effectively communicate that approach to customers to help manage their expectations and enable them to engage in safe and healthy behaviors.

IWBI can help retailers achieve this goal through the Well Health-Safety Rating, an evidence-based, third-party verified rating for all facility types. It focuses on operational policies, maintenance protocols, emergency plans and stakeholder education to address a post-COVID-19 environment now and broader health and safety-related issues into the future.

The Well Health-Safety Rating serves as roadmap for retailers to implement evidence-based strategies that address their unique retail spaces. Upon completion, the Well Health-Safety seal signifies that the retail space has made a commitment to supporting employee and customer health.