Retail News

Henderson Group issues reassurance to staff and shoppers

SPAR Fortfield.

Northern Ireland’s biggest community retailer has introduced several new precautions and procedures into its stores to protect staff and shoppers during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Henderson Group, owner of the SPAR, EUROSPAR and VIVO brands in Northern Ireland and supplying to over 450 stores here, has said it is on the front line in its communities and doing everything it can to keep shoppers safe and stocked up.

“Since the rapid progression of the Covid-19 outbreak, many businesses have had to adapt during a time of uncertainty when advice was changing every hour,” said a spokesperson for the Henderson Group. “We immediately set up an incident team internally to put measures into place to protect our staff and shoppers.”

Initial measures included mandatory hand washing breaks for staff; heightened hygiene protocols throughout the store, especially at high touch points; product purchase restrictions; and a new queueing system to provide social distancing.

Since then, the retailer has closed its deli counters, aside from a controlled and limited hot food menu; communal seating areas; customer toilets; and Subway counters.

“As a Government-designated essential retail store, we know our responsibility regarding protecting those who enter our stores, but we also know our shoppers need to work with us as much as possible to give everyone the maximum protection possible,” said the spokesperson.

Henderson Retail stores are now closing from 9pm daily to allow for staff breaks and the replenishment of stock. Perspex screens are being installed at checkouts and contactless payment is encouraged, with the Group welcoming the announcement of the contactless limit increasing to £45 from April 1.

“As part of our shopper communications, we have, in line with the Government and the NI Executive’s plea, asked our shoppers to only get what they really need for now,” said the spokesperson. “Thankfully, we have very understanding and cooperative shoppers who have helped us immeasurably as this really is a team effort.

“We already have in-store communications, which extend to our digital platforms and national radio, asking our shoppers to come in alone, stay only for as long as they need and most importantly when in our stores, to keep that 2m distance. Store managers are policing this as best they can, however we need our shoppers to be mindful too.

“To further manage social distancing, we’ve introduced a policy to restrict the number of people in a shop at one time. This will be managed by staff at the entrance to each store.”

In recent days, Henderson Group has redeployed many head office staff to work with front line colleagues on shop floors, and invited applications from those who have recently lost their jobs. “Interviews are currently being undertaken remotely to fill hundreds of jobs to those who have unfortunately lost theirs during this pandemic,” said the spokesperson. “We’re privileged to be able to operate at this time and want to help as many people continue to work as possible.”

And to adhere to the Government’s lockdown and ensure as many people stay at home as possible, many stores will be providing a delivery service. Details of stores offering this service will be published on SPAR and EUROSPAR websites and updated on social media.

“We are a family-run company with a huge network of retail stores in every community in Northern Ireland,” said the spokesperson. “We know how much we are relied upon and we are confident our new way of working will help all members of our communities in the coming testing weeks.

“We are proud of the way our staff have come together during this crisis. Our Henderson Retail stores have partnered with food banks across the province to encourage even more donations to the vulnerable, we have donated over 600 bouquets of flowers from our Mother’s Day range to NHS staff, our dedicated staff and loyal customers, plus our SPAR and EUROSPAR BP forecourts are providing free fuel to Emergency Services vehicles. The community spirit is alive and well and helping us all get through this tough time.”

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