Creating safe spaces for staff, customers and community

How Tractor Supply, Southeastern Grocers and AEO prioritize health and safety during the pandemic

From dealing with consumers “panic buying” to keeping the doors open and protecting staff and customers, retailers have been challenged to prepare for and respond to COVID-19.

During NRF PROTECT ALL ACCESS this week, a panel moderated by H Squared Research LLC Chief Research Officer Hitha Herzog explored how retailers worked to ensure safety for their workers and the communities they serve.

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Tractor Supply Company is among businesses that stayed open throughout the pandemic. As “the grocery store for people’s animals,” the top priority was creating a healthy and safe place, according to the company’s vice president of loss prevention Eddie Foley.

“If we want to take care of our customers, we have to take care of our team members first,” Foley said, “because they’re on the front lines dealing with them on a daily basis.”

TSC’s response included supplying personal protective equipment, implementing social distancing and awarding appreciation bonuses. The company also made sure team members were covered for any kind of COIVD-19-related illness, Foley said. To meet the needs of customers who were wary of coming into the stores, TSC added curbside pickup and delivery options.

Meanwhile, as grocery stores remained open, teams responded to capacity limits, physical distancing and product shortages.

“Our business was just absolutely at a frantic pace,” Southeastern Grocers LLC Vice President of Asset Protection and Safety Daniel Faketty said. “We knew early on we had to act quickly.”

The company carved out shopping hours reserved for older customers – and stayed open after normal closing time for police, emergency and healthcare workers, so they could get essentials like toilet paper and cleaning supplies.

“If you were working all day long, by the time you got to the grocery store, [those items] were all gone,” Faketty said. “We held supplies back so they could at least purchase their essential needs.”

The company sourced multiple manufacturers to get plexiglass installed in a matter of days, not weeks or months, Faketty said. When social distancing signage wasn’t ready, stores used shopping carts to keep people apart.

He said Southeastern Grocers was doing what it needed to do because it was the right thing – noting “all of these relationships that we were building in the community, taking care of those essential workers along with our own associates, paid huge dividends.”

The response to the pandemic has resulted in more departments thinking about safety and wanting to help with solutions, according to American Eagle Outfitters Inc. Chief Global Asset Protection Officer and CSO Scott McBride.

“We almost feel like our mantra was, we wanted to be ‘parent-approved,’ to be able to allow their children to come back and staff our stores, and also to come in and shop as well,” McBride said. “That’s what guided all of our decisions as we went through all of the work-from-home meetings we had at corporate – to make sure those environments were set up for that.”

Watch the video to learn more, and register today for NRF PROTECT ALL ACCESS to view full session videos.

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