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The Surprise Spending: the Impact of COVID-19 on Retail & Hospitality

As state and local mandates began rolling out, retailers had the challenge of not only figuring out how to reopen safely but how to communicate to their entire staff how to get the job done properly. Shoppers won’t come back if they don’t feel safe, and associates won’t be able to do their best if they feel insecure about their health.

As stores begin to reopen, response plans will entail tremendous operational changes which must be communicated to every employee to ensure these changes succeed. New safety protocols and procedures, including operations, sanitation, contactless payment, new HR rules and much more, must be communicated consistently to all. In addition, as situations change state by state, even county by county, communications must be fast and targeted to be effective. In fact, the speed of these changes requires associates to be reached daily on their personal devices before they even set foot in a store. Communicating with them quickly and continuously is more important than ever before.

The good news is that the retail industry is taking training seriously. Multimedia Plus, a training and communications technology company, released a COVID-19 impact survey that measured the impact of the pandemic on pressing industry issues focused on technology, training and spending priorities. The survey examined the planned financial impact and spending that the current COVID-19 pandemic has had on national business. In total, 112 senior executives in the retail and hospitality industries participated in the survey.

While it was expected that spending increasing for cleaning and PPE supplies would increase, some may be surprised that retailers made a commitment to spending on technology and training. Over 75% of respondents revealed employee training as their highest priority initiative with the investments to go with it. The survey revealed that nearly 49% of respondents said their IT spending would remain the same; about 15% said they were planning on spending 10% more, and approximately 18% said they planned to spend 25% more.

An example of new technology is a module called Daily Health Check that is focused on efficiently maintaining health safety standards electronically with confidential historical tracking. The employee pre-shift screening questionnaire is answered by staff quickly and easily upon arrival on either their personal phone or enterprise device. After answering a five-question assessment, the Daily Health Check will immediately display a green pass to indicate they’re clear or a red stop sign to signal the screening manager. All confidential records are maintained electronically for historical reference.

The role of training and communications technology is expanding. Consider your new sanitation plans, for example. It is mandatory that frequently touched areas need to be disinfected thoroughly and often. Do staff members understand how and when to sanitize these areas? Do they know where to access PPE items and how to use them properly? How can you be sure they understand? A communications platform providing simple, two-minute quizzes to refresh them either before shift or in between guests confirms their understanding and ensures compliance while identifying where further safety guidance is needed.

We expected that retailers and hospitality industry executives would be planning to spend more money on deeper and more frequent cleanings and that budget would be allotted for protective equipment, such as masks. Some members of the industry had a strong feeling that technology budgets would be increased to impact proper training. The survey proves our instinct that the rulebook being used until now is completely obsolete. From an operational standpoint, executives are or need to be addressing mandates that are changing daily and vary by state or even county.

David Harouche is founder, chief executive officer and chief technology officer at Multimedia Plus. For more than 20 years, he has developed innovative, technology-driven programs for a broad range of clients. Prior to founding Multimedia Plus, Harouche worked at Ann Taylor in a variety of roles. He earned a B.S. in Finance and Information Systems from New York University and graduated with honors from The Stern School of Business.

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