With the COVID-19 pandemic forever changing the way consumers shop, a new third-party certification program aims to help retailers offer a safe space and customers to shop with confidence.
In all retail environments, consumers and employees have developed new and lasting expectations regarding safety. The newly formed Safe Shop Assured certification program provides retailers with the ability to demonstrate that they are best-in-class. In order for retailers to win amidst this new paradigm, it is essential to communicate their commitment and build trust.
As a joint venture between Paragon Solutions and WTWH Media, the publisher of CStore Decisions, Safe Shop’s strategy and development is informed by feedback from a multi-generational and diverse independent board of retailers, suppliers, and retail experts.
Safe Shop operations will be managed by Frank Beard, who recently joined as the program’s director. In recent years, Beard has been an outspoken advocate about customer experience issues while presenting at industry events in the U.S. and internationally.
“The challenge right now is that consumers don’t have a clear way to judge a retailer’s commitment to safety,” said Beard. “In the early months of the pandemic, everyone scrambled to adjust to this new paradigm and implemented a confusing mishmash of strategies. Safe Shop defines what the table stakes are now and in the near future, and it allows retailers to communicate that their efforts have been independently verified and certified by a third party. This instantly sets those retailers apart from their competitors. It helps build additional trust in their brand.”
Retailers who wish to achieve Safe Shop Assured certification must first satisfy a checklist of essential safety standards. After verifying that the required measures are in place, they will then be able to incorporate Safe Shop signage, graphics and protective equipment in whichever way is most appropriate for their brand. An annual inspection process will ensure that standards are maintained.
“The inception for Safe Shop began with a management meeting at Paragon,” said Mike Lawshe, president and CEO of Paragon Solutions. “The question was, ‘What can we do to help our industry during this pandemic and beyond?’ At our core, the Paragon team are communicators. Whether through branding or retail design, we help our clients communicate a message. Safe Shop is the way that we, as an industry, can communicate to customers, employees and other stakeholders that ‘We care,’ that ‘We have taken all the steps to create a safe retail experience.’”
CStore Decisions Vice President and Editor-in-Chief John Lofstock feels that the Safe Shop certification will quickly become the industry benchmark for cleanliness and operational standards.
“Convenience store owners understand the critical importance of sanitation and safety,” said Lofstock. “So developing a structured certification process will send a powerful message that retailers are focused on the well-being of their people and their customers.”