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Bad Salzuflen (bre). Since spring 2020, we all have to deal with a new normality. Masks, disinfection, distance and many other new realities have changed our everyday life and the way we think and act.

This has become particularly visible in retail. Spacers in the form of stickers, flutter tapes or prescribed walkways are supposed to provide more safety. Maintaining the distance in the highly frequented checkout area is a particular challenge. In most cases, there is only a lack of hygiene protection for staff and customers at the checkout counters. In this zone of the store, however, proximity to the customer is also unavoidable, as the products have to be placed on the checkout belt by the customer and the employee has to pull the products over the scanner.

Employees and customers have almost the same demands and wishes when it comes to safety. They want to be in a protected environment both when working at their workplace and when shopping.

What do customers think?

According to the POS Marketing Report 2021 from the “Rundschau”, for 55% of customers the implementation of Corona hygiene rules is an important criterion when choosing a shopping location. And this survey result is no surprise. The partly makeshift “protective guards” with wooden slats and tacked-on plastic sheets not only look uninviting, but also do not inspire confidence. Apart from their usefulness. A customer is more likely to prefer a market where he has the feeling that the protective measures apparently offer him more security.

What applies to employees in the retail trade?

According to the Covid regulations, employees in the checkout area are exempt from the obligation to wear masks. However, without the use of sneeze guards, they are exposed to the same high risk of infection as their colleagues. The employer must ensure the protection of his employees. According to the 23rd Covid Order of 15th December 2020, this results in an obligation for all persons in workplaces and establishments (…) to wear a mask covering their mouth and nose. For the retail sector, this means:

"(...) The employees at the cash registers themselves are at their (concrete) workplace and are therefore not affected by the mask obligation (no traffic area). In this area, however, it is part of the employer's duty of care to ensure that employees are protected (for example, by means of separating screens or other suitable measures). This is accordingly transferable to other workplaces and business premises."

So what to do?

“The variety of checkout counters and their respective shapes and designs is large. So the challenge is to develop a protection concept that can be applied to every checkout counter in retail,” explains Oliver Voßhenrich, managing partner of POS TUNING. According to recent studies, 58% of shoppers expect hygiene standards to be maintained in checkout areas as well. Oliver Voßhenrich describes the innovative idea of the Bad Salzufl-based company as follows: “We have developed a kind of flexible modular system that allows us to adapt and install hygienic sneeze guards to any type of checkout counter in just a few simple steps.”  This system is made of recyclable PETG and features, among other things, high transparency and break resistance. All parts can be mounted directly on the checkout counter and are adaptable on site. “We thus offer our customers 360° all-round protection, because the basic package with front and pack protection can be extended at any time with the back and door protection,” explains Oliver Voßhenrich.

What does the future hold?

Although it is hard to imagine at the moment, there will be a time after the pandemic. What will it look like? How will our thinking and actions change? Oliver Voßhenrich explains: “Our shopping behaviour is already no longer the same as before the pandemic. The demands in the retail sector in terms of hygiene standards have increased. Shoppers want to feel safe when shopping and, above all, understood by the retailer. He must know what moves his customers. This also includes the fears that shoppers have. Of course, shopping should still be fun and not become an excursion into the unknown. The “feel-good zone” has been expanded to include the “safety zone”. This is where new thinking has to start.”  In a survey for the EHI whitepaper “Handel mit Abstand”, 57% of shoppers were in favour of keeping the use of hygienic guards at checkouts even after the pandemic. Hygienic sneeze guards for checkout counters are a piece of the puzzle in the new daily routine – they can give employees and shoppers alike a sense of security. But that’s not all: according to BGHW, the hygienic sneeze guards from POS TUNING also meet the requirements for the retail trade. An investment in the future and in a new, different everyday shopping life.

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Maren Brettmeier

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