Updates • 01.10.2021

COVID-19 in brick-and-mortar retail

Updates on developments concerning COVID pandemic

The Corona pandemic is an ongoing predicament with constant changes and challenges for all involved, people, societies and industries. Here we collect news on the pandemic situation for the retail industry.

Mental health struggles of low-paid workers during the pandemic


Retail trade union Usdaw is launching the results of a survey of low-paid key workers, which reveals the extent of mental health issues they faced throughout the Covid-19 crisis.

A survey of over 4,000 members found that:

  • Almost three-quarters feel anxious about going into work.
  • By far the biggest factor is a fear of contracting the virus.
  • Young workers’ main concern is customer abuse and harassment.

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary says: “Our focus remains the same now as it was before the outbreak of Coronavirus; to identify how work affects our members’ mental health and ensure they get the right support. This report outlines the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of Usdaw members and gives a voice to their experience of working in critical sectors of the economy throughout the coronavirus crisis.”

Source and further information: USDAW

Find many news, articles and interviews concerning retail and the COVID-19 pandemic on iXtenso/coronavirus.

Jabs for jobs: Retailers making COVID vaccinations mandatory


For a small but growing sector of companies, vaccinations for its employees are obligatory, iterating a controversial “jabs for jobs” requirement.

At TJX Companies Inc., parent company of Marshalls and TJ Maxx, all U.S. home and regional employees must be fully vaccinated by November 1st. In a statement a spokesperson said: “We believe the current protocols that we have in place in our stores and distribution centers are working well at this time. With our offices reopening for the first time in more than 18 months, we felt this additional step was an important one to take.”

At Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, a planned re-opening of its corporate offices in September is making vaccinations mandatory for returning employees.

Sportswear giant Under Armour is giving its employees until end of the year to be vaccinated. The company is set to re-open its campus in January 2022, requiring all returning employees to be fully vaccinated. Its retail and distribution workers are not required to do so, but will be forced to wear masks at work.

Walmart is also mandating vaccines for its office workers. “We continue to watch with deep concern the developments of the pandemic and the spread of variants, especially the delta variant,” Donna Morris, Walmart’s chief people officer said in a released memo to staff. “We know vaccinations are our solution to drive change.”

In the U.K. office workers are not obliged to be vaccinated and companies are able to set their own Covid-19 regulations. The U.K. Government has previously hinted that vaccination passports may be needed for shoppers to enter some shops later this year.

Source and further information: FashionUnited

Health measures continue to boost in-store grocery shopping


As the delta variant spreads and COVID-19 cases surge again, shoppers are feeling ambivalent about their return to in-store shopping, according to the research from the Food Industry Association (FMI) and the Hartman Group.

At 60%, an increasing number of U.S. adults think food shopping in-person is safe — up from 50% in February. But hesitancy remains, with shoppers reporting fewer in-store trips and time spent there per visit than pre-pandemic. 

Respondents said they are more concerned about getting sick from other shoppers (40%) than from touching shopping carts (30%), store employees (29%) or surface contamination (28%).

Source and further information: Grocery Dive

Summer 2021 economic forecast: reopening fuels recovery


The European economy is forecast to rebound faster than previously expected, as activity in the first quarter of the year exceeded expectations and the improved health situation prompted a swifter easing of pandemic control restrictions in the second quarter. 

According to the Summer 2021 interim Economic Forecast, the economy in the EU and the euro area is set to expand by 4.8% this year and 4.5% in 2022. Compared to the previous forecast in the spring, the growth rate for 2021 is significantly higher in the EU (+0.6 pps.) and the euro area (+0.5 pps.), while for 2022 it is slightly higher in both areas (+0.1 pp.). Real GDP is projected to return to its pre‑crisis level in the last quarter of 2021 in both the EU and the euro area.

Growth is expected to strengthen due to several factors. First, activity in the first quarter of the year exceeded expectations. Second, an effective virus containment strategy and progress with vaccinations led to falling numbers of new infections and hospitalisations, which in turn allowed EU Member States to reopen their economies in subsequent quarter. Upbeat survey results among consumers and businesses as well as data tracking mobility suggest that a strong rebound in private consumption is already underway.

Source and further information: European Commission

Too much too soon – Usdaw slams the U.S. government's weakening of safety measures in stores


Paddy Lillis,Usdaw General Secretary of Usdaw, says:

“This is too much too soon. The Government should not be weakening safety measures in shops at the same time as opening up other venues. There is no reason why requirements to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing in busy public areas like shops cannot continue.

Wearing a face covering in crowded public areas like shops is not merely a personal choice, it is an important measure to help protect workers who have no option but to interact with large numbers of people as a part of their job. The main purpose of face coverings is to protect others and the Government must send out a clear message on this.

Usdaw is urging the shopping public to continue to wear face coverings, along with necessary hand sanitisation and maintaining social distancing to help make shops safer and limit the spread of Covid-19. We also continue to call on employers to maintain appropriate safety measures and ensure that they are being followed consistently, in every store."

Source and further informationUsdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers)

BRC responds to Prime Minister’s announcement on Covid restrictions


Responding to the Prime Minister’s press conference on the easing of Covid restrictions, Tom Ironside, Director of Business and Regulation at the BRC, said:

"Retailers await the government's final decision on July 12 about the easing of restrictions the following week. It will take consumers and businesses time to adjust and it is vital that Government messaging is clear and consistent so that businesses and consumers easily understand what is expected of them both legally and individually."

Source and further information: British Retail Consortium (BRC)

U.S. Retailers want consistency on mask guidance


Lisa LaBruno, Senior Executive Vice President, Retail Operations and Innovation at RILA, said:

“Today’s CDC announcement on masks creates ambiguity for retailers because it fails to fully align with state and local orders. Retailers are reviewing the latest CDC guidance to determine if any changes should be made to their current safety protocols. While these reviews are ongoing, it is critical for customers to remember the CDC announcement is guidance and that many state and local jurisdictions still have mask mandates in place that retailers must follow. These conflicting positions put retailers and their employees in incredibly difficult situations. We urge state and local governments to coordinate with the CDC as additional guidance is issued on the road to normalcy. 

Retailers will continue to prioritize the safety of their team members first, as they’ve done throughout the pandemic. We urge all retail customers and guests to follow a store’s safety protocols including wearing a mask and social distancing. Frontline workers deserve this respect. Retailers encourage customers that do not want to wear a mask to shop online or via curbside pickup offerings.” 

Source and further information: Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA)

Compiled by: iXtenso editorial team

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