Managing Coronavirus at Retail
By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
The current coronavirus pandemic has impacted every individual’s life in some way. With the recommendations around social isolation and given the key role retailers play in the food supply chain, the industry is in overdrive ensuring shopper safety and availability of food.
Many retailers, including Walmart, Big Y, H-E-B, Stop and Shop, and Coborn’s to name a few, are cutting back on open store hours to provide employees with time to restock shelves and effectively sanitize stores. The frequency of sanitizing of communal surfaces has been increased. Corporate employees are being asked to spend time helping with shelf restocking at local stores.
While COVID 19 isn’t a foodborne virus, all forms of food product sampling are being temporarily discontinued. Some retailers are closing salad bar and other self-serve stations.
Retailers are ramping up their online ordering and curbside pick-up options to lower risk for employees and shoppers alike.
What Retail RDs Can Do
- Remind shoppers to get their information from reputable, science-based organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Partner internally at your retailer to ensure information being sent to shoppers via loyalty card holder e-blasts or web pages givens information from reputable sources and is updated frequently. In communication, highlight reputable media outlets.
- Partner with your pharmacy team to dispel myths about lowering risk of contracting the virus. Consider a Facebook Live segment to address frequently asked questions from shoppers. Some products are making false coronavirus claims, and helping shoppers navigate these falsehoods can lessen fear and panic for your shoppers.
- With schools temporarily closing across the country, parents are looking for ways to occupy young children’s time. Take this as an opportunity to promote nutrition worksheets and games, easy cooking projects that are age appropriate, or activity/exercise competitions that kids could remotely do with their friends, positioning yourself as a valuable resource to families in your communities.
- Participate in webinars and follow news specifically targeted at the retail industry. FMI, for example, hosted a webinar yesterday sharing best practices for associates to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
- Staple foods are flying off the shelves as consumers worry about the potential closing of stores. In social media, on websites, and in videos, showcase easy recipes to prepare from canned goods and pantry staples to help consumers feel prepared for the coming weeks.