Back to business: A COVID-19 Return Guide
COVID-19 has presented exceptional challenges to businesses across the country over this lockdown period as firms have had to adapt their operational arrangements and business models to adhere to social distancing. However, the government has now issued clear guidance that many businesses can now open again on June 15th. Yet the commercial landscape has been changed dramatically over the lockdown period, possibly with the effects here to stay for the long term. So how can businesses go about getting back in the swing in this new environment? Our handy guide aims to help out.
- Preparing your business: for brick and mortar businesses, returning to the premises prior to opening will be essential to carry out tasks like sanitising surfaces and equipment that comes into contact with customers, as well as creating spaces that can adhere to social distancing if possible. This includes putting up visible signs that reinforce social distancing, introducing screens, and possibly putting in place measures such as hand sanitiser for customers. Fitting rooms will be closed, and any returned stock must be held for 72 hours before being placed back on sale. Business owners should also make the relevant risk assessment and put in place policies for any staff related to hygiene, cleaning and handwashing and possibly operate a phased return to work. Be aware that taking the relevant steps to enforce social distancing is a legal requirement, and on the spot checks may be carried out and breaching the rules could lead to fines or even jail time. For more information on how to sanitise your devices, check our guide on this.
- Let your customers know you are back: with staggered dates of re-opening, most customers will be unaware that your business has re-opened. This is a good time to announce your return on social media channels, in store, and on your website. This should be paired with a larger marketing plan, including elements such as drawing on your mailing lists, direct marketing, and social media engagement. Your marketing should reflect a commitment to adhering to social distancing and stopping the spread of the infection. You should also update your website to inform customers of your current precautions and restrictions during the COVID-19 outbreak. If your business does not currently have a website, check out our guide to getting online.
- Adapt your business to changing spending habits: Over the lockdown period, customer behaviour and spending habits have changed drastically. It is vitally important you have an e-commerce and online presence, as many customers are choosing to shop in person less frequently. Recent figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showed that online shopping is now accounting for a record 22% of all retail sales. Over the course of the lockdown overall consumer spending fell sharply, however spending on groceries, alcohol, entertainment, hobby and crafts all increased. It remains to be seen if this trend will continue after the ‘isolation economy’. Additionally, customers are increasingly hesitant to spend and receive cash in an effort to combat the spread of Coronavirus, making it more important than ever for you to be able to accept card payments.
- See what help is out there for your business: Re-opening is only the first step in securing the long-term growth and profitability of your business. Fortunately, there is ample help at hand, from both government and local authorities, this includes furlough payments, local authority grants, tax and business rates deferments, and many more schemes designed to ease the burden. Our comprehensive guide to this is here.
- Stay flexible and monitor the situation: Coronavirus has shown that flexibility and adaptability are key traits to stay ahead in an increasingly uncertain business environment. It is important to keep up to date with the infection rate in your local area, as well as to continue to check government updates on the situation and guidelines as they are announced. It is useful at this moment to make contingency plans for any possible second spike and return of lockdown measures.
If you are a current customer with UTP, you are also entitled to apply for free business class provided by Barclays, more information here. This includes helpful tools such as resilience guides and feedback from financial specialists at Barclays.
If you require assistance adapting your business to these uncertain times, get in touch. We can ensure that you are able to take card payments at industry leading rates, and we also have a powerful e-Commerce platform that will ensure that your online transactions are processed with the lowest possible costs.