What it’s REALLY like to work in retail during the Coronavirus

On Wednesday 18 March, Boris Johnson announced that in order to avoid the further spread of covid- 19, schools across the U.K will be closing on Friday 20, March until further notice. It has also been advised that where possible people should work from home and avoid places such as pubs and restaurants. But for many this isn’t an option.

Whilst the general public have been advised to avoid public places and social distance, retail businesses have not been told to close. So for many in order to survive the corona virus, it’s business as usual.

For those who work in retail it is impossible to do their job from home but with more and more people social distancing where does this leave shops? How do they carry on business as usual when the survival of their business relies so heavily on face to face interactions with customers?

Lauren Wilson, 21, has worked in a department store in Newcastle for two and a half years.

She describes the impact Corona virus has had on her workplace:

“In some ways the Corona virus has had a big impact on the shop. Anyone who has shown symptoms has to isolate for two weeks whilst receiving sick pay, so there are a lot of staff off, which does put more pressure on the staff members left.

“Cleanliness within the store is also more important than ever! We have hand sanitiser on the back of every till and in the canteen and we are all washing our hands more regularly. We are also cleaning displays as well as the most commonly touched areas such as door handles as much as possible.

“But in general, it’s just quieter, a lot of our customers through the week are older and so are probably self-isolating. Every customer you talk to brings it up and mentions how quiet not just the shop is but also town, it is scary, it’s all you hear about at work but we’re carrying on as normal and my role hasn’t changed.”

She adds: “It depends how many people stay off work as to whether or not we will stay open but for now we are still open and going about our usual activities. I have seen lots of shops reduce hours, so we’ll just have to see.”

There is a level of uncertainty for those working in retail. With no customers coming into store no one knows what tomorrow will bring. But for smaller stores, who make a smaller profit this could fatal.

I have worked in retail for almost three years now and unlike Lauren I work in a small shop. I do work for a chain company, however the branch I am based in is very small and therefore not always the busiest.

It’s safe to say we have been hit hard by the outbreak of the Corona virus. Firstly, hours were cut for all members of staff and then half of the team were made redundant. It’s sad to see such a good team be torn apart in these circumstances but truth be told for those of us who remain no one knows how much longer we will be there or how much longer the shop will remain open.

As for the business of the store, it has been eerily quiet, the quietest I have ever seen it! I work in a clothes store which means due to social distancing people are no longer coming in to browse the clothes and what we’re selling isn’t seen as a necessity to get through self-isolation, so people don’t have a reason for coming into the store anymore.

Yet through all of this retail staff are still there day in and day out just in case we can make a little bit of business that day.

However, it is not just retail that is suffering during these difficult times, hospitality is also under threat.

Olivia Harding, 20, works at a pub which her family has owned for three years.

She said: “It’s a small but popular pub that has been around for almost 100 years and since Boris Johnson has advised people to stay away from pubs, business has been affected massively, nights that are usually busy are very quiet as people are just staying home.”

It seems that supermarkets are the only stores currently busy with companies such as Aldi and Lidl even taking on new staff to help cope with the high demand from customers. However, for the rest us it’s a case of preparing for the worst as the Corona pandemic continues.

It has since been announced that from Friday 20, March all pubs, bars, nightclubs, restaurants, cafes, gyms, leisure centres and cinemas will be closed.

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