Walking in a (clean and healthy) Winter Wonderland

John McPherson, Managing Director of ABM UK, discusses how to ensure public safety in retail as we head into the Winter months with fewer restrictions than last year.

As a nation, we’re becoming more familiar with the lifestyle changes which the pandemic has presented. We’ve now lived through a summer with fewer limitations, but we’re yet to face an unrestricted winter and the unknowns surrounding it.

The next few months are crucial to the recovery of the retail sector, with the run up to Christmas traditionally offering businesses the majority of their annual revenue. However, this year, this enormous commercial opportunity comes with heightened pressure to ensure the retail environment is as safe as possible. Colder temperatures mean less fresh air being circulated at a time when there will be significant increases in footfall and extended trading hours; all of which will likely result in more pathogens being present.

This challenge is in addition to the usual considerations which the winter season brings, such as managing slippery or unsightly surfaces caused by wet and muddy weather outside, ensuring toilets are kept stocked and presentable, and much more. Visitors coming out of a cinema at 8PM must experience the same level of cleanliness and safety as those shopping at 9AM.

At ABM, we manage over 180 shopping centres across the UK, and our experience allows us to understand the risks and how to mitigate them. However, in a post-pandemic world, that’s not enough, which is why we appointed an Expert Advisory Council, composed of external and internal leading experts in infectious disease and industrial hygiene, to advise on many aspects of our business, including our proprietary EnhancedClean programme. Insight from the council and tried and tested measures from EnhancedClean mean that we are well positioned to prepare retail customers for arguably one of the most important festive seasons ever.

In collaboration with our clients, we reimagine the consumer journey for each site and consider a variety of approaches. This ranges from an increased presence of cleaning team

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members, to the regular use of electrostatic fogging machines which disinfect surfaces within two minutes.

More self-cleaning stations for trollies and hand sanitiser dispensers are essential, as are clear social distancing markers in all areas of the shopping environment. While our measures are primarily preventative, we also recommend a specialist team which is trained to do confirmed case clean ups.

In addition, using robotic cleaning equipment and IoT sensors allows team members additional time to further elevate our service delivery while collecting data which can be used to make efficiencies. Interactive posters can also be used for improved communication and shopper experience, allowing the public easy access to navigating centres, registering an arrival, and more.

It’s not only imperative to keep the spaces healthy, it’s also important to build consumer confidence by allowing shoppers to see the work being done to protect them. Recent independent research showed that 61% of consumers say that seeing cleaners in public spaces makes them feel that safety measures are being taken seriously. This is why we recommend that our clients bring cleaning teams out to the fore during all hours so the public can see the fantastic work they're doing.

Alongside the high standards of cleaning we offer, many clients benefit from a full-service package that includes security and technical expertise, bringing more value. This covers everything from HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) and energy solutions, to mechanical and electrical and presentation services.

We have all been changed by the pandemic and our awareness of safety and wellbeing whilst visiting public spaces has never felt more apparent. While many of us are thirsty for normality, as we look forward to a change in season, the facilities management industry will be continuing to work hard to ensure it can all be experienced with minimal risk involved.

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