From 15 June ‘non-essential’ retail stores in England can open provided they are ‘covid secure’ with a range of government guidelines to help them adhere to this. Clothing, footwear and health and beauty are likely to face the toughest challenges for reopening and require changes to their previous ways of working. With other countries in the UK likely to follow suit soon after England how can the UK retail sector adopt project management principles to plan for this phased re-opening of the retail sector?
1. Lessons Learned
Successful projects build in time to appropriately plan, adapt and review previous lessons learned at the outset to set up for success. In re-starting non-essential retail the same can be applied (1). With food retailers staying open during the pandemic so far, there is a clear opportunity to learn from their experience and build on this. What has worked well and where have the pain points been for customers, employees and operational aspects? Non-essential retailers should be studying these earlier retail examples to adapt their re-opening plans and ensure they re-open in a way that both manages their retail operations and keeps hold of their customers through clear communications, processes and quality with a focus on HSE aspects.
2. Test Test Test!
Successful projects rarely reflect that they have spent too much effort on testing, unsuccessful ones however… (you get the idea!). The same will be true of re-opening the retail sector. With a lag between announcement of re-opening non-essential retail and the mid-June date, retailers need to take advantage of this to test new ways of working. As with good test approaches on projects, get a clear test strategy and plan, ensure test scenarios are all encompassing and allow time to refine based on test results and retest in multiple cycles. Stores could use staff returning from furloughed leave to be the testers as part of their wider training and re-mobilisation before they open to retail customers. The value of testing as in projects cannot be over emphasised to de-risk and also to build confidence ahead of go-live and set stakeholder expectations.
3. Adapt, Measures, Re-Iterate
As with successful projects where strong governance and controls are in place to both guide and review performance the same should be at the heart of retailer strategies for re-opening success. Use project approaches to measure and review regularly and then changes to processes, activities and ways of working can be made to fine tune and adapt. Building this into retail re-opening plans will facilitate a more controlled and planned re-iteration as retail data and feedback can be fed into decision making much like a good project governance board would review and adjust, albeit on a more regular daily basis as required in a fast moving retail sector and pandemic environment.
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