In-store cleaning: Cleaning, safety, and the future of retail | Nilfisk

In-store cleaning

Cleanliness makes customers feel safe
and contributes to a positive retail experience.

Cleaning, Safety, and the Future of Retail

Cleanliness has always contributed to a positive retail experience. In our 2019 study on the value of clean, we found that 95% of shoppers notice how clean a store is and 85% consider cleanliness to be very or extremely important. 

But, because of COVID-19, cleanliness has taken on a new meaning. It’s no longer just a “nice to have” factor that creates a positive experience. It’s now the litmus test that consumers use to determine whether or not a space is safe. 

For food retailers, in particular, providing a safe shopping experience has a very real impact on a store’s bottom line. In fact, a 2020 Deloitte survey found that safety is now almost as important as price. “Price is still king when it comes to consumer purchase drivers,” the company wrote. “However, a new factor, safety—that until now was just expected and not part of consumer concerns—has essentially tied with price for first place.” 

The long-term impact of COVID-19 on cleaning in retail

This shift in attitudes toward safety and cleanliness will likely persist long after the pandemic ends. We recently conducted a survey of more than 600 respondents representing various sectors, including retail. Our results show that the expectation of cleanliness has changed.  

  • 89% said cleaning has become more business-critical.​

  • 93% of retail respondents said that COVID-19 has increased the expected standard of cleaning. ​

  • Only 14% expect a return to pre-COVID cleaning standards. 

 To meet these new expectations, retailers are allocating significantly more resources to cleaning. As you can see in the following graph, most retail respondents expect the changes to their cleaning operations to be long-term. 

Cleaning operational changes

Graphic 54%

High quality/thoroughness of cleaning

Graphic 53%

Increased/more regular monitoring of cleaning

Graphic 45%

Increased overall time spent cleaning

Graphic 44%

Increased frequency of cleaning

Graphic 44% 1

New types of cleaning procedures

Graphic 36%

Increased budget allocated to cleaning

Graphic 32%

More advanced cleaning machines purchased/ leased

Graphic 29% 1

More staff employed to meet increased cleaning needs

Graphic 29%

Longer cleaning shifts

Source: Nilfisk Disinfection study 2021. The study was based on an online survey with a total of 609 panel respondents representing different sectors. Base for results referred above was 114 respondents from the Retail sector. All participants were screened for minimum 'shared influence' on cleaning equipment purchase decisions.

How retailers can make customers feel safe 

To provide customers with a reassurance of safety, retailers need to not only adhere to stricter cleaning protocols, but also communicate transparently about them. Here are some best practices for cleaning and communication. 

Clean more frequently, more thoroughly, and more visibly 
In the past, shoppers were comfortable assuming that a store’s cleaning processes met the accepted standards. Today, they want to see it for themselves. Eight in 10 consumers in a recent Harris Interactive survey said they’re now more aware of hygiene practices outside their home, and 62% said it’s important for them to see cleaning in action. 

 Best practices for meeting increased cleaning standards  

  • Clean surfaces after each interaction. 
  • Disinfect high-touch objects, such as trolleys, baskets, point-of-sale terminals, and shared equipment multiple times a day using an EPA-approved disinfectant. 
  • Clean and disinfect floors with a floor scrubber 
  • Clean restrooms, and other shared spaces during business hours. 
  • Implement more regular deep cleaning, i.e., using steam, hot water, and disinfectants. 
  • In larger spaces, use autonomous cleaning machines with UVGI capabilities for continuous cleaning and disinfection throughout the day. 

Document and communicate your cleaning processes 
In our most recent survey, 86% of retailers said that their cleaning plans have become more formalized due to COVID-19. Developing these plans is just the first step. You also need to communicate with your customers and employees about what you’re doing to keep them safe. 

Best practices for documenting and communicating about cleaning   

  • Provide specialized training for staff about cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting procedures. 
  • Use environmental markings to identify high-frequency touch points and provide signage to communicate how frequently they are cleaned. 
  • Document the completion of cleaning tasks (e.g., signs in bathrooms showing when they were last cleaned). 
  • Hold regular employee meetings about cleaning activities. 
  • Post information about your cleaning protocols at the store and on your website. 
  • Test your surfaces frequently (e.g., using swab tests, to ensure disinfection is performed properly. 
  • Have your cleaning processes verified and certified by a trusted third party. For example, the Global Risk Advisory Council offers GBAC STAR Facility Accreditation program. 

 Overall, the outlook for the retail industry is positive. Even with the sharp rise in eCommerce, people will continue to patronize brick-and-mortar stores. The key for retailers will be to make customers feel safe.

Read more

Learn how back-of-the-store cleaning impacts health, safety, and profitability in our 'Best practices'-article.