In his monthly reflection on the grocery business in Scotland, Dr Pete Cheema, chief executive of the Scottish Grocers Federation, looks at the amazing work convenience store workers have done and highlights the need for looking after them too.
Our local convenience stores have been open for business throughout the pandemic, playing a key role in supporting customers.
Across the UK convenience stores are now providing more than 600,000 home deliveries per week in their communities as they have responded and adapted to these very challenging times.
The pressure on our colleagues on the shop floor has been relentless.
They have had to put in place all the social distancing and protective measures in-store, reacting at times in a matter of hours as many of the new regulations from the Scottish Government have been announced with very little advance warning.
Health and wellbeing
As the trade body which represents local shops, the Scottish Grocers Federation has big concerns about the health and wellbeing of staff, particularly their mental health and wellbeing.
And we should bear in mind that a remarkable 47,000 people are now employed in convenience stores across Scotland.
We know that one in four people will experience mental health issues and that one in six people report experiences of a common mental health problem (like anxiety and depression) in any given week.
About 40% of local shops have said that they have been much busier during the pandemic and most stores are open for an average of 14 hours per day.
It is vital that store workers know that there are support services available and that they can talk openly about mental health issues.
We have developed partnerships with key service providers to ensure that support services are available for our members. We will ensure that these are in place for the long term: being constantly busy can hide the real stress and strain that people are under and it’s often not until things return to some kind of normality that problems come to the fore.
As the national trade body, we have a duty of care to our members. However, the interactions between shop staff and customers is probably the most important part of all of this – most customers visit their local shop about four times every week.
Our request to customers is that they follow all the social distancing requirements in stores. Please use a face mask and, most importantly, please have patience with staff.
Together we can ensure that local shops remain healthy places to work in and safe spaces to shop in.