3 ways Lowe’s protects shoppers, employees and products

The retailer took a proactive approach before the pandemic hit the U.S.

In late June, NRF hosted a webinar, “Pandemic Playbook: Protecting your shoppers, employees and products during the pandemic.” The event, previewing some of the topics to be discussed during NRF PROTECT ALL ACCESS in September, featured Scott Draher, vice president of asset protection and safety at Lowe’s Companies, and Hitha Herzog, chief research officer at H Squared Research LLC.

The conversation between Draher and Herzog delved into Lowe’s nimble response to the COVID-19 pandemic as the Lowe’s team shifted from running a normal retail business to being deemed “essential” — a designation imbued with new priorities and challenges. Draher and his team leveraged the company’s long-standing culture of safety to quickly put new procedures in place; familiar processes were revamped with the security of employees and customers at the forefront of every decision.

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Draher outlined the proactive approach adopted by the Mooresville, N.C., retail chain weeks prior to the pandemic. “A crisis support team began exploring actions we could take before COVID took root in the U.S.,” he said. “That group was augmented by a cross-functional task force including safety, supply chain, merchandising and facilities that met twice a day to create a plan, implement needed changes and provide guidance and support.”

Appropriately, when Draher and his team realized a new protocol was required at the point of sale to ensure the safety of associates and shoppers, they ended up applying do-it-yourself skills to bring it to fruition.

“Protocols are only as good as your execution,” Draher said. “Once we determined that plexiglass shields were needed to enable social distancing, we immediately began looking into the vendors who could supply us with what was needed.” It turned out, however, that several vendors were already running low.

“Never, ever jeopardize safety.”

Scott Draher, Lowe’s

“Another director and I decided to build a solution based on what we were already selling in the stores,” he said. “We came up with a solution, built a shield and, by that afternoon, we sent instructions to every store. Within two days we had deployed shields throughout the organization.”

At the close of the webinar, Draher was asked to share three takeaways for managing safety and security amidst the challenges of COVID-19. He conveyed the following:

One: “Never, ever jeopardize safety,” he said. It doesn’t matter if it’s going to impact sales or shrink — a retailer should never compromise something that has been put in place to keep people safe. Moreover, he stressed the need to continuously enhance protocols that have been put in place, particularly as information is updated.

Two: “Continue to positively reinforce the value of the policies and procedures that you’ve put in place,” Draher said. As the pandemic has continued, fatigue is beginning to set in among both customers and associates. “People are tired of having to wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines, but it’s imperative that we stay the course,” he said. “We need to over-communicate the value of the parameters we’ve set and make sure everyone understands the positive impacts these measures will ultimately have.”

Three: “Sustainability is essential,” he said. “This is not going away any time soon, so we need to be sure the actions we took in the early days of the pandemic will continue to work over a longer period of time.”

In March, he said, the initial objective was to deploy things quickly, putting changes and procedure in place as expeditiously as possible. Now Lowe’s is taking another look, with an understanding that this will be an ongoing challenge, and reassessing actions to make the procedures and tactics sustainable in the long term.

“Do we need to replace certain things?” he said. “Do we need to invest differently or deploy different technologies? These are the questions we’re asking now.” 

Hear more about safety and security topics relevant to retailers at NRF PROTECT ALL ACCESS, September 22 - 25. The virtual conference features more than a dozen educational sessions along with access to more than 50 exhibitors in the simulated Expo hall.

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