How retailers are adapting to life after lockdown

The retail sector has faced mixed fortunes during the Coronavirus pandemic, with essential retailers able to stay open while many non-essential businesses were forced to close.

As lockdown conditions start to be lifted, it’s an opportunity for shops to open their doors again, albeit in a ‘COVID-secure’ way.

But what does that mean for retailers – including those who have been able to trade throughout lockdown?

Here are some of the main issues retailers have faced, and the lasting legacy COVID-19 is likely to have on the sector in the months and years to come.

Degrees of distancing

Social distancing is one of the biggest challenges across the entire sector. It places limits on many aspects of trading:

  • Queues at entrances and checkouts.
  • Maximum customers in a store at any one time.
  • Distance between customers and one-way systems.

Retailers have had to think fast, with makeshift social distancing markers just using brightly visible tape to designate two-metre boxes on the floor.

Over the coming months, the retail sector will need to continue to adapt to changing degrees of social distancing, such as the recently introduced ‘one metre plus’ rule, which allows customers to get closer together if mitigation measures like masks and physical barriers are used.

Online and on the road

Some retailers who were not able to open their physical stores during lockdown have continued trading as online-only businesses.

This has led to some novel collaborations – such as Argos, who have allowed customers to collect their orders from Sainsbury’s stores during lockdown, a partnership that looks set to continue for some time.

Others have unlocked previously untapped revenue streams, either by allowing customers to order directly online, or by providing home delivery options that were previously not available.

Back in business

The easing of lockdown creates a two-tier retail sector, with some businesses already trading for weeks with social distancing measures in place, while others are playing catch-up as they open their doors again for the first time.

However, the ever-changing path of the pandemic means conditions are unlikely to stay static for very long, which could quickly level the playing field across the entire bricks-and-mortar and ecommerce retail sector.

For retailers, the coming months are a time of shifting challenges, but also one of opportunities, to cut costs, serve customers in new and COVID-secure ways, while catering for emerging demands like hand soap, face masks and other personal protective equipment.

 

Call us on 0151 2360707 or email info@hebs-group.co.uk if you would like to know more about our retail services and a member of our team will be happy to help with your enquiry.

 

HVAC maintenance tips during summer

HVAC maintenance goes through several phases throughout the year. In winter, more of the pressure is on the heating, whereas in summer this shifts to the ventilation and air conditioning.

As we move into the warmest part of the year, here are some summer HVAC maintenance tips to keep your system in good working order.

  1. Clean the filters

Clogged filters can prevent air from circulating properly through the system, so make sure your filters are cleaned and clear of any dust or debris.

Over the course of the year – especially during the winter months when weather conditions are unsettled – all sorts of residue can get into your HVAC system.

Cleaning your filters should be one of the top summer HVAC maintenance tips on your to-do list, to get everything ready for the sunny season.

  1. Clean the vents

Filters affect air flow into the HVAC system, but clean vents are equally important for the air coming out.

Remove any dust from on and around your air vents, and you’ll not only benefit from better HVAC efficiency, but could also reduce the risk of seasonal allergies in your premises too.

  1. Clean the condenser

Don’t neglect your air conditioning condenser unit, which is usually located out of sight at the rear of your premises, on an exterior wall.

It’s important to exhaust hot air to the outside, but it’s easy to forget about the outdoor parts of your HVAC system.

If you’re not sure how to maintain these, or you’d just like to save yourself the trouble, call in the experts who can take care of it in a couple of hours, so your HVAC system is completely clean and running at maximum efficiency.

  1. Adjust the thermostat

Make sure your thermostat is set to the correct level, especially in workplaces where multiple people have easy access to adjust it.

In summer there can be a temptation to set the thermostat to an extreme, in order to keep the air conditioning running constantly.

However, it’s much more efficient to adjust the setting to a sensible value, and then use natural ventilation to get fresh air into the building without spending unnecessarily on electricity.

  1. Check the power supply

This is one that’s best left to the professionals, but it’s important to get your HVAC power supply and electrical wiring checked regularly.

Large commercial HVAC systems use a lot of power, and that flow of current can eventually lead to burnt out connections or loose wiring from electromagnetic movement.

Get your HVAC appliances examined regularly for electrical safety, and also make sure you get the mains wiring in your walls inspected for any degraded wires and connections, so you can rely on your air conditioning to get you through the summer without failing.

 

If you would like to find out more, contact hebs at info@hebs-group.co.uk or call 0151 236 0707 and we will be happy to discuss our full range of HVAC services.

How to reconfigure hospitality premises for social distancing

After weeks of total lockdown – with some exceptions for key workers and vulnerable residents – the hospitality sector is starting to open back up as the Coronavirus curve enters a steadier phase.

The COVID-19 pandemic creates a contradictory environment for the sector. Premises normally designed to bring people together must now do more to keep them apart. This requires some careful planning.

In and out

Entry and exit are a major challenge for all kinds of premises. Restaurants and bars can introduce staggered arrival times, but if possible, it’s even better to have a designated ‘in’ door and a separate exit door.

This extends to indoor areas too. Hotel reception desks should have a clear, socially distant queueing area, which guests do not need to walk past when leaving the front desk.

Floor markings can help to keep people apart, while recognising that those from the same household or ‘support bubble’ can be much closer to one another.

Fixed yet flexible

Another challenge is making sure one-way markings, social distancing measures and physical barriers are fixed enough that guests cannot easily ignore them, yet can be moved easily if guidelines change.

For example, the ‘one metre plus’ rule allows individuals to come closer together in areas where two metres of distance is not feasible.

Hospitality establishments must currently cater for both rules at once – two metres where possible, and one metre plus where appropriate.

Communal spaces

With the exception of hotel bedrooms, most customer spaces in hospitality establishments are communal – such as bars, pubs, restaurants, hotel dining rooms, reception areas and so on.

Careful reconfiguring and semi-permanent refurbishments can adjust these areas to become COVID-secure zones, for example by using booths to separate groups of diners, and solid barriers to remove the risk of infection in shared spaces.

Removing some tables from dining rooms, as well as some seating in reception and other communal areas, can also help to increase the minimum distance between guests as they move around your premises.

Trust and respect

It’s difficult to police all parts of your premises at all times, but you can take steps to protect your customers, while trusting them to take some of the responsibility upon themselves.

For example, you can provide safe queueing areas, request that customers wear masks if necessary, in communal spaces, and provide things like alcohol hand gel on arrival.

You could even put together a complimentary COVID-safety pack for new arrivals, with a disposable mask per person and a pocket-sized hand gel, which could prove extremely welcome to travellers.

The hospitality sector has always found ways to make customers feel welcome, and to provide added value during their visit – so with some simple adjustments, you can continue to do just that as we move through the rest of this year and beyond.

 

Call us on 0151 2360707 or email info@hebs-group.co.uk if you would like to know more about our hospitality services and ways in which you can improve your facilities for social distancing.

 

No more blocked drains in Morecambe

Flowtech continue to keep ambulance stations in the north-west free from the scourge of blocked drains, which can cause problems for car park drainage as well as backed-up pipes inside premises.

By clearing obstructions and flushing through the pipes, Flowtech make drains as good as new, with free-flowing wastewater and no residues left behind.

That means less standing water in car parks on rainy days, no clogged and overflowing sinks, and no bad smells due to food scraps and other waste caught in the pipes.

Often, it’s a relatively easy job to unblock a drain or pipe, or clear a gutter, yet it can have a huge impact on the use of your premises, as well as issues like hygiene, health and safety.

We have a variety of different tools to reach awkward locations and clear blockages wherever they occur in the drain, and we follow up by cleaning the pipe or gutter of any surface grime so you get the maximum possible flow rate through it.

Jetting off to Morecambe

In a recent call-out, we attended Morecambe Ambulance Station, where a blocked drain was causing problems with getting rid of wastewater.

We soon found the obstruction and diagnosed the best way to deal with it – we always assess the situation first, before using the best tool for the job.

In this case, we used a high-pressure jet to clear the sludge that was blocking the drain, leaving it completely clear of obstruction.

Once we were confident the blockage had been blasted away, the Flowtech team flushed a brightly coloured dye through the drain from above, which allows us to double check that everything is flowing freely again.

Only after we complete the final checks are we satisfied that there are no remaining obstructions elsewhere in the drain, and we can call it job done.

Flowtech drainage and pipeline services

If you have a blocked or broken drain, Flowtech can help. We have high-tech equipment to inspect pipelines for clogs and collapses, and we can clear and rehabilitate pipes back to good working condition.

We can check high-level gutters, ground-level drains and manholes, and buried pipelines, with trenchless rehabilitation methods if we find a breakage in need of repair.

To find out more, contact the Flowtech team today by calling us on 0151 2360707 and we will be happy to discuss what you need, including a quick callout if a blocked drain is causing standing water, overflowing pipes or other forms of flooding.