For the first time in its history, Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in the world, has been feeling the ‘Amazon pinch’. The online retailer has been taking sales away from Wal-Mart, and the company is, shall we say, less than happy about this. So, to compete with Amazon, Wal-Mart began investing heavily in updating its website. This has paid off handsomely. However, because most Wal-Mart shoppers still purchase products in stores, the company decided to allocate investment dollars there as well.
To start, employee wages were increased and training programmes were developed to teach staffers how to improve their customer satisfaction skills. But Wal-Mart did one more thing that we in the professional cleaning industry should know about: the company cleaned its stores. This is not to say the stores were not already presentable.
It’s just that Wal-Mart decided to put much more emphasis on the appearance – meaning cleanliness – of its stores. And, what’s happened since these steps were taken in the past few years?
According to Bryan Pearson writing in Forbes magazine, cleanliness is a priority not only for customers but also for the people who work at Wal-Mart. “Clean stores not only are more attractive to shoppers, but they also make for healthier workers and require less frequent asset replacement,” meaning floors and carpet last longer.
While floors were center stage, that does not mean areas such as restrooms were not also given considerable cleaning attention. Wal-Mart knew that these were ‘second impression’ areas that many patrons see, which can impact their brand perception. It was important for them to address these issues. Essentially it comes down to this: moms would rather leave the store than deal with a nasty restroom, taking her kids and her pocketbook with her. This made restroom hygiene a top concern.
Retailers around the globe are trying different ways to deal with the ‘Amazon pinch’ and bring shoppers into their stores. Many are placing displays at the front entrance so that visitors can touch, feel and explore merchandise before they even step inside. While this certainly can entice customers to walk in and shop, from here, it’s the floors that take over. A clean, well-maintained, glossy floor is like an invitation saying: welcome; you are our guest, how can we help you?
Apparently, Wal-Mart is now aware of this, and retailers throughout Europe/Middle East should be too. But, it's more than just the customers who appreciate well-maintained floors. So do the people working in the stores, as our mega-retailer also discovered.
This is why we say clean and healthy floors provide ‘5 Wins’ for retailers.
A boost to the store's image
Floors create an impression. Starting with the entry, a clean, well-maintained floor is inviting, reinforces a positive image of the store, and makes employees feel proud of their employer and their jobs.
“Improper cleaning methods can make a floor far more slippery than was previously believed,” says Barry Miller, a U.S. attorney and safety consultant. A focus on a truly clean floor following best cleaning practices reduces the likelihood of a slip and fall accident.
A clean, well-maintained floor is easier to maintain. In most cases, this means fewer cleaning solutions, water, and energy to power floor machines are needed to maintain the floor. And if fewer cleaning solutions are necessary, it usually means less petroleum-based products are used; fewer chemicals mean less packaging materials are needed to package those products; and the number and amount of cleaning solutions delivered around Europe/Middle East are minimized as well, reducing fuel needs.
Increased worker productivity
When staffers view their job as a career, it usually means they take more pride in their employer and their work. Invariably, this means less employee turnover, increased productivity and happier employees helping customers. A clean store can contribute to each of these outcomes.
Effective floorcare provides retailers with a return on their cleaning investment. In a retail location, grit, dirt, and other soils build up on floors. With foot traffic, these are pounded into the floor, often reducing the life span of the floor. Proper maintenance helps keep floors cleaner, longer, which helps lengthen the floor's life, which can equal a very large cost savings.
Proper Floor Care Means Never Mopping Again
Now that we know how important well-maintained floors are for retailers, how do we get them really clean? One of the first steps is to do away with mops. According to safety consultant Miller, mops are manufactured with an oily film on them. As they are used, this film, along with soils collected in the mopping process, can increase the chances of slip and fall accidents. In addition, he says, mops spread germs and contaminants, which can negatively impact the health, appearance, and safety of the floor.
This is borne out by guidance from the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). “Cloths or mops must be germfree, or they'll spread germs to other surfaces,” reports the NHS. “Germs can multiply easily. Within eight hours, one bacterium can multiply to six million and so on. Germs stick to cloths and mops and are difficult to remove by rinsing or cleaning.”
It’s very hard to keep a mop germ free, as recommended by the NHS. They become soiled and contaminated the instant they are used. This means that for health and safety reasons, an alternate floor cleaning method is needed. What has proven successful for many retailers is what is called an ‘SUV’ system. These walk-behind systems have been tested and proven to be as effective and fast as an auto-scrubber, but at a fraction of the cost. According to Marc Ferguson with Kaivac, which markets these machines across the globe, “As the machine is walked over the floor, cleaning solution is applied to the floor. A pad at the rear provides the necessary agitation to loosen soils, which are then vacuumed up by the SUV.”
The process requires no mops, so cleaning crews do not need to worry about spreading germs, oil, or soils. Ferguson adds that many contractors like the fact that minimal training is needed to use an SUV, ‘but what really gets their attention is the price tag. They are about 10 per cent to 25 per cent less than an equivalently sized auto-scrubber.”
Retail stores are here to stay
After a poor performance last Christmas, many observers said traditional brick-and-mortar stores are on their way out. But that may not be correct. Since then, studies have come forward that indicate most people want to shop in stores, especially during the holidays. For instance, one survey found that 60 percent of respondents rank being able to “see, touch, sample and try on items” as the top reasons to shop in a store, and more than a third view retail shopping as an “enjoyable social activity.”**
So, if people really do enjoy shopping in stores, retailers must do everything they can to keep it that way. As Wal-Mart discovered, one of the most effective ways is to keep stores clean, starting with the floors.
About the Author: Robert Kravitz is a frequent writer for the professional cleaning industry.
* “5 Priceless Ways Walmart\'s Investment in Workers Is Paying Off,” by Bryan Pearson, Forbes Magazine, November 1, 2016.
** Survey was conducted by Adyen, which develops payment technologies for retailers. Released May 3, 2017.