The COVID-19 outbreak is unprecedented and causing a stressful time for all including customers, staff and owners/managers. Earlier this week we sent out a survey and asked members: How is COVID-19 impacting your customer service?
We asked if members were operating on regular hours; on reduced hours; or closed. We asked if retailers had access to adequate quantities of cleaning and safety supplies to maintain enhanced store cleaning and protect staff. We also asked if members are experiencing staff shortages or inventory problems, and overall, what are the biggest operating challenges.
The responses were many and heartfelt and the feedback was consistent:
- Few closures have been reported and there’s a mix of retailers and members operating either regular hours or on a reduced schedule depending on store traffic and staffing.
- In general, sales are down significantly as consumers are not travelling except for essentials. With the reduced store traffic, gas sales are down significantly for retailers with gas pumps.
- Thankfully, most product inventory supply is not an issue with the exception of cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer and wipes.
- Maintaining staffing is a real challenge. Staff are naturally concerned and if they or a family member develop any kind of virus-like symptoms they must self-quarantine for at least 14 days. There are also a number of staff with pre-existing conditions, such as asthma, and these staff are no longer available to work due to health risks.
- Stores are being innovative in enhancing safety measures, such as creating markers for social distancing and switching to a no cash, debit/credit payment policy. In addition, a number of stores have already installed plexiglass-type sneeze guards and other health protection barriers. Please let us know if any members want contact information for suppliers and we will forward.
- Lastly, and not surprisingly, many retailers are concerned about cash flow. At the best of times the convenience industry is a business that operates on low margins and we need traffic volume for break-even or better.
We are reaching out to the four provincial governments to communicate our industry’s situation and your concerns. Already in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia we are part of working groups with other business leaders and key government contacts and are on frequent calls. Convenience stores are an essential service and it will be driven home that you need help and relief from the current environment.
In addition, below are the four website address links to the provincial websites, and, if available the specific pages with information for business. Depending on which province your business is located, there are and will be more programs available to help your staff and business. We know and have heard your frustration that the supports announced so far are not enough and we will be pushing for more and faster relief.
Nova Scotia: https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/
Newfoundland and Labrador: https://www.gov.nl.ca/covid-19/
If you have a specific question or are having trouble getting answers, please reach out to me directly and I’ll do my best to help: Mike Hammoud, 902-880-9733, [email protected].
Finally, our plan is to have a new COVID-19 website built and ready for Monday with a page and repository of the latest COVID-19 developments and government program details so you have easy access to current information.
Stay safe and we will communicate again soon.
Mike Hammoud, President, ACSA