Business coronavirus case studies
As part of our campaign to encourage people to support the district's businesses and High Streets, we are highlighting how our local businesses have responded to the coronavirus pandemic. The following selection of case studies show how a range of businesses are reopening safely across the district in line with the Government's COVID Secure guidelines
- RL Austen
- The Crafty Pint
- The Upholsterer
- Red Card
- Buzby and Blue
Jackie and her husband Graham run a clothing store called Lifestyle in Selsey.
Lifestyle closes during the quieter months of January and February each year, but this year's reopening in March was very different to anything Jackie and Graham have experienced before.
Jackie says, "We've been in the clothing trade 23 years, and we've never seen anything like this.
"When we reopened our doors for the new season at the beginning of March, we had all new stock and a brilliant first week. But by the third week, business really started to go downhill, and we took just £3 in one day. The following Monday, the Government announced the lockdown."
Having been closed since then, Jackie and Graham are delighted to be back in business and seeing customers again.
"Even at school, and in all my jobs since, I have been a social person. My husband and I have really missed having contact with our customers.
"We have put in place a number of measures around the shop, including a cleaning station, a quarantine rail for 'tried-on' clothing, and directional signs such as arrows, two metre lines and a box at the till.
"We are lucky because we have two doors, one of which we are now using as an entrance and the other as an exit. We have sectioned the store up to make a one way system.
"We're doing the very best we can for our customers — the store doesn't look as pretty, but it's safe and that's what's important at the moment!"
R.L Austen Jewellers in Chichester has been closed since the lockdown began, but the team were keen to use online platforms to stay connected with their customers.
Joshua Getting, store manager at Austen Jewellers, says: "Over the lockdown period, our social media channels have been incredibly valuable to us. They have helped us keep in touch with our customers, and we have posted updates and offered prize giveaways. We saw an increase in online purchases over this time, so we're hoping that people who are shielding or like to shop this way will be pleased to hear about our new and improved website, which will be launching in the next couple of weeks.
"We love being able to interact with people in person though, and now that our showroom is open again, we very much look forward to welcoming new and existing clients to make their special memories and purchases with us in store.
Joshua explains that the team have gone to great lengths to make sure that everyone has a safe shopping experience. The whole store has been customised to utilise both retail floors, and the number of people in store has been limited to ensure everyone can keep a safe distance from each other. Clear floor markings have been used to guide customers to their service areas, as well as all interaction points, and discreet screens have also been installed.
"All of our staff are using PPE and have been fully trained on all of the changes we have made to the way we operate," Joshua adds. "I am very proud to say they have done an exceptional job in keeping our staff and our customers safe."
Despite the challenging situation, Joshua feels that the range of products, services, and customer service the business has to offer has never been better.
"We have introduced the role of 'host', who is working at the shop entrance to direct customers to the correct part of the store for their requirements, and to manage the number of people in the showroom. In the first week of reopening, this new role has been invaluable to ensure everyone's safety, but it has also meant that we can provide the absolute highest quality of service that our clients have come to expect from us.
"We have introduced a new appointment system called 'e-Reception Book' to help manage time and visits. This is something that we plan to continue using as part of our business long term. It has also meant that we can log contact tracing which we feel is important. Our staff have found this very easy to use, and it adds to that luxury feel of our showroom even before people set foot inside."
Since high streets reopened on 15 June, Joshua and the team have been really pleased to see how well the community of businesses in Chichester have reopened and that customer safety is at the heart of the city.
"We have all been very impressed with the way stores have reopened in Chichester — they have all done so in very safe and effective way. Anyone coming to Chichester to shop should have every confidence that they are able to do so safely, and we're sure they will have an enjoyable visit."
Andrew Chiverton, who runs the Crafty Pint in Midhurst, has had to think particularly carefully about how to reopen his business as he is on the Government's shielding list, and in the highest risk category.
During the lockdown period this specialist off licence has been offering a pre-order collection and delivery service which will continue, as the shop is initially only opening for two days a week, with just one customer able to go in at a time.
"I can do a bit more work now, but because it's just me and a colleague and I can't do as much as I would like because I am shielding, we have decided to open on Fridays and Saturdays, with limited hours," he explains.
As well as installing signage, a sneeze screen at the till and providing a mobile credit card machine, Andrew is also being extra cautious because of the nature of the products they sell.
"We have put in place a lot of safety measures, and one of the most important things is ventilation, we have the back door and front door open to get a through-draught. Because the virus is supposed to live on glass and metal surfaces for a lot longer, we are also asking people to only pick up what they intend to buy and any bottles or cans that are put back are being taken off the shelves for three days just to be sure."
Andrew believes that despite the distancing measures, smaller businesses like his can still offer the personal service that people expect from independents.
We are doing everything we can to keep people safe but at the same time make it a nice experience," he says. "To have that personal interaction - albeit at a distance - is really important to us. We have a wonderful group of customers and we are looking forward to seeing them again. The personal aspect is the thing we have missed most.
"We want people to know we are still lovely and friendly and keen to offer the best of personal service and that shopping can still be a welcoming and safe experience.
My colleague and I are working towards part opening at some stage. I would love to be able to open on the 15th but have to run things differently for now as I am on the shielding list in the highest risk category, so have had ten weeks in and only leave the house now for a daily walk, or to supply my mother with shopping.
In the meantime, we have been offering a pre-order collection or delivery service and are putting in place measures for distancing, sneeze guards, a mobile credit card machine and signage etc.
We are really looking forward to a time when enough of a level of normality is restored so we can have an albeit distanced face to face experience with our lovely customers.
Laura runs The Upholsterer in Midhurst with her husband, and, like many people, they have been juggling keeping their business going with home schooling their two children. As well as the shop they have a workshop at the back, and so when lockdown began although they had to close the main shop, they were able to finish off some orders before work eventually stopped coming in.
"We have found it hard running the business and home schooling," says Laura. "We were sort of set up online for our business but not completely, so we had to learn some things very quickly, so we will benefit from the situation but quite a way down the line.
"Financially it has been a worry but we feel incredibly lucky, and the support from the Government has been good. Our children went back to school a couple of weeks ago, and it was nice to get some routine back - I.always thought I wasn't a routine person, but actually yes I am and it's been nice to get back to a sort of normal."
Since high streets reopened on 15 June, their business has been a lot busier and they have also been able to finish delivering bigger orders to customers that they had to put on hold during lockdown.
"We didn't have any queues, and it was fairly quiet as I think a lot of people have also been starting back at work. We have missed the social side of things, and we have had customers just coming in to say hello which has been really nice and we have a sign on the door saying 'we've missed you'.
Laura and her husband have put in place a number of measures around the shop such as installing a protective screen around the till area, making hand sanitiser available when customers enter the shop as well as various signs reminding people about the two-metre rule. They have made lots of subtle changes to the shop layout and because the nature of the shop lends itself to a one-way system, they have also been able to set this up, and they are limiting customers to a maximum of three at a time.
"We also have the windows wide open, so it's a bit breezy but we are trying to keep the air as fresh as possible in the shop. We also have a supply of masks and gloves if customers want them as well."
Before lockdown, all the Midhurst business owners, including Laura, would meet for breakfast once a week to share information and experiences, and they have continued this twice a week via Zoom, which has really helped when planning for reopening.
Laura has been carefully preparing for reopening, and as well as closely reading the Government guidance and keeping in touch with her fellow business community, she also looked into how businesses in Italy and Spain dealt with reopening, what worked for them and how customers reacted.
Laura's message to businesses is that they are open and safe: "We are ready, and all businesses here do genuinely care about how our customers feel. We don't just want to open and get people to spend money, we are all going out of our way to make people feel safe and we genuinely want to keep them safe.
"All the smaller shops are putting in place exactly the same measures as those you will find in places like Tesco, and we are doing everything we can to make people feel comfortable."
KerryType in Midhurst has recently reopened to customers after closing at the beginning of lockdown in March.
Darren, who runs KerryType, says: "We're really glad we are now able to welcome our customers back properly. As a local business, we are on a first name basis with many of our customers and they're more than just our clients.
"We were closed for the majority of lockdown but were able to adapt to operate a click and collect service, but nothing replaces having face to face contact with our customers, many who we consider friends."
They have put into place many measures to ensure safety for both customers and staff. This includes a one in, one out policy, a large safety screen at the counter, and hand sanitiser available for customers, gloves worn by staff, and lots of signage and floor markings.
Darren adds: "We've been making sure we are up to date with all the latest coronavirus regulations and government guidance, and have been working with the District Council, the Town Team CIC and Midhurst Business Network.
"It's going to be a strange time moving forward. Customers may be worried but we are operating in the safest possible parameters, and so you're as safe as you can possibly be when you visit."
Shoppers who are returning to Red Card in Petworth may notice things are a little different to when the shop shut at the beginning of lockdown.
Sally Matson, who runs Red Card and is also the Deputy Chair of Petworth Business Association, says: "We are really excited to welcome our customers back to Red Card, and can't wait to catch up with them all.
"We've spent much of lockdown refurbishing the shop. This allowed for better traffic flow and a new till point which provides for better social distancing, which is just one of the measures to keep our customers safe.
"We'll be limiting the shop to just three customers at a time, which will give us the opportunity to provide really personal customer service."
While the business was closed, Sally took the opportunity to help out in her local community and spent time volunteering with Haslemere Food and Clothing Bank. While volunteering there, she noticed that there was a shortage of new underwear and this has led to her creating a new charitable organisation in association with Red Card, called Brief Request.
Sally says: "New underwear is something that clothing banks need, but not something that people readily donate. Brief Request wants to help address this aid gap in the local community, by asking people to think about buying some underwear for someone else when they're shopping for themselves. They can then post it in a post box which is now situated inside our shop."
As part of her role as Deputy Chair of Petworth Business Association, Sally wants to reassure customers that Petworth is open for business: "All the businesses in Petworth have been taking safety really seriously. All of the town's shops will be displaying COVID-19 secure posters to show that all the right measures are in place to keep you safe, so please don't feel nervous about coming back to the high street."
Last year, Munneries celebrated 100 years of supplying fruit and vegetables to pubs, restaurants, hotels and universities, as well as the general public. When lockdown started, they received a flurry of phone calls and emails from residents isolating themselves who needed deliveries, and so the business quickly adapted from commercial customers to focusing on the public.
As well as increasing their delivery days, Munneries also expanded their range of goods to include more artisan bread, fruit juices, and dry goods such as flour, pasta, tinned tomatoes, beans and pulses. As a result, they have been operating throughout the lockdown, providing much needed groceries to residents across the district and their shop in Shore Road has remained open throughout.
Staff have been working hard to make the shop as safe as possible for everyone, and have introduced a wide range of protective measures. Staff wear face masks or visors and hand sanitiser has been placed by the door. The shop is also limiting customers to a maximum of five at a time so people can maintain social distancing. They have introduced a one-way system and there are also separate entry and exit doors. The tills have also been placed near the exit, which has been working very well, while customers are now able to use contactless payment.
"People shouldn't feel nervous about visiting us, we have put in place every measure possible to ensure that our customers and staff are kept safe," says Julie Barker-Muzzell, Director at Munneries. "While our core customers have changed since the lockdown, we are still very much focused on sourcing high quality produce, so, whether it's potatoes, broccoli, salad or summer fruits, we buy locally wherever we can and we pride ourselves on our commitment to finding the best produce as well as providing first class, friendly customer service.
"Looking ahead, we'll continue to operate the way we have been over the last three months, so we are always accessible by phone or email. We offer free delivery and we don't insist on a minimum order, and as long as we receive an order before 10am we can do next day delivery."
Tonie says: "bond-a-frame is delighted to reopen following the lockdown. To keep everyone safe, we have a variety of measures in place.
Customers will only be allowed to bring work in through the front door on an appointment only basis, and there is floor tape to show where they can stand safely while choosing their product. We have a system in place to show customers how the finished work will look while maintaining a 2 metre distance from them.
When collecting, customers will need to inform us of their arrival by phone. Customers will collect through the back door and will remain at the back of the shop while collecting and paying. These measures will ensure that customers are always 2 meters apart from another person.
In the break between appointments, we will be cleaning our benches, door handles and any other surface that a customer touches with sanitising cloths or spray, including the card reader, when used.
Each staff member will also have their own 'kits' which will include a phone and essential tools and will be named to ensure there is no cross contamination.
We will make sure all staff breaks are staggered and will remain flexible to ensure we are available to help customers.
We will initially open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for customers bringing in work, however customers will be able to collect work during any of our normal trading days and hours (Tuesday to Saturday 9:30 to 17:30.)"
Buzby and Blue are now open again. Paula, the salon's Business Manager, says, "Since the announcement that we can reopen, the phone hasn't stopped ringing. We'll be open longer hours so that we can see all of our customers as quickly as possible."
Buzby & Blue's new opening hours are:
- Monday to Friday: 8am-8pm
- Saturday: 8.30am-5.30pm
- Sunday: 10am-5pm
They have created a video to show people the new salon experience!