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Vic Smith Beds: Coping with COVID-19

Independent mattress retailer Vic Smith Beds shares an insight into how they have coped so far during the pandemic, while offering some advice to others.

Adapting to a changing retail landscape is crucial for survival. This has never been more true than the unprecedented times businesses now face. As retailers across the furnishing industry begin to remove the locks, open the doors and welcome customers back into their stores, safety guidelines must be adhered to.

The Government and the British Retail Consortium has played its part in offering fundamental measures to introduce and manage, which retailers are proactively implementing. 

      We have got in place a number of measures, to make people feel reassured and at ease. In our stores we are operating a one way system. 

For Vic Smith Beds, the family business - headed up by Vic Smith - has been busy transforming its three stores ready for its grand reopening. As Vic says, it's all about making customers "feel reassured and at ease".

So we found out more - at a safe distance of course...

"We have got in place a number of measures, to make people feel reassured and at ease. In our stores we are operating a one way system.

"As you walk in we have single sachets of gel sanitizer as the pump sanitizers could theoretically have someone else’s hand operating it before. On the floor we have put in place '2m keep apart' signs," Vic revealed. 

"We also have designated waiting areas, where if we are busy, the next customer can wait at a comfortable distance and see just how we are running things with the customer in front of them."

The business is delivering a positive message to potential shoppers, that it's safe and has even gone as far as taking extra measures when it comes to product testing. 

"We have disposable pillow cases, and paper body roll - like you would find in the doctors surgery or beauticians," Vic explained, adding that staff are also safe with the introduction of screens.

"The staff are behind desk virus screens, and keypads for card machines are being disinfected before and after every customer as well as the shop being deep cleaned after every customer too."

Furthermore, the company has detailed car parking information for visiting customers for each of its three stores. 

For its Southgate store, it is encouraging shoppers to use car park by M&S, while at its Enfield store customers can use the car park by Tesco and at its Whetstone store there is plenty of space to park outside. 

Social distancing

Social distancing

Back to the stores, Vic Smith has decorated the front display of each store with signs welcoming face masks in an effort to avoid any confusion and "awkwardness". 

"We have signs on the shop windows saying face masks are welcome. We’re not saying that customers have to have face masks, but we are not making people feel awkward for wearing them.
"We are also operating an appointment basis. This allows us to control the flow and gives us spacing in between customer appointments to clean and sanitize. 

"We are taking the view, if someone has made an appointment, masked and gloved up to travel to us, then they are serious about buying a bed. Where before Covid-19, our doors would be open to all and sundry including tyre kickers, that just waste your time or looking for a friend."

The company has clearly worked hard to implement these radical changes stowed upon all businesses and is edging closer to its official reopening date. Vic said that original plans were to open on 1st June, but it was put back to 15th June to make sure all stores and staff are prepared. 

On the other side of the business, its delivery operations are running as normal, but with extra safety measures incorporated too, as Vic explains. "Our vans will be working as the same two man delivery teams with new gloves after every delivery and hand sanitizers on board.  

"Our drivers are practicing safe distancing and team working in accordance with government regulations. We are doing away with signed for goods, and taking a quick photo of the goods at the premises. We are listening to the industry, and whilst we think we have most things covered, we have also launched a staff Covid-19 WhatsApp group with daily messages to make sure everyone is up to speed as things are constantly evolving."

Communication is going to vital - as ever - as businesses continue to cope with Covid-19. Vic Smith Beds is ready to roll and has even found time to offer special promotions to tempt cautious shoppers back into store. 

"We are a family business that is always committed to helping our customers as it’s our customers that have kept us going for over 30 years," Vic said, continuing: "We are very thankful that even though our stores have been closed, we are very lucky that our loyal customers have kept us busy with our internet sales to help us ride out this storm.

"We believe this lockdown has kept people in their beds longer, realising that they could do with a new/better mattress. We have been on the phone to manufacturers to get prices down and make buying a bed now more attractive. Our new deals are time sensitive with limited stock availability and we hope this provides an extra incentive for customers to get back shopping."
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