Hand sanitizer

How dealers can navigate COVID secure trends and support new customer needs

The long-awaited reopening of England’s businesses is a relief. But, with it comes a need for strict compliance with never-before-seen health and safety rules.

BOSS Federation recently hosted a webinar looking at how businesses are becoming COVID secure. This was the first in a series which will aim to help dealers prepare for the new workplace and meet customer needs, as well as ensure dealer businesses are COVID secure too.

In this blog post we’ve highlighted the changes taking place in workplaces, the trends that our industry is seeing in products and what dealers can do to help support key customers and maximise on the sales opportunity in this new world.

Safe air, safe surfaces, safe people

There’s a new priority for businesses up and down the country: safe air, safe surfaces and safe people.

David Butter from BOSS Federation emphasised how companies will need to comply with track and trace regulations, keeping cohorts of workers apart and doing everything possible to keep transmission down.

Businesses are doing this by separating tables in communal areas, banning shared utensils and workers from congregating in communal areas and introducing one-way systems in offices. Some manufacturing companies are even separating car parks for day and night shift workers and stretching out workstations, to keep workers apart as much as possible.

In commercial properties there’s extra cleaning and hygiene measures being carried out, PPE for staff members, divider screens for tills and counters and increased signage for social distancing.

Dealers can now use this time to speak with their customers, to understand the new needs they have particularly in their sector, and how you can support these businesses to meet the new safety guidelines. From plastic cutlery to safety signage and social distance tape, these new workplace guidelines could be a goldmine of opportunity for office supplies dealers moving forward.

There are still questions surrounding regulations

Changes are now coming into effect, there are still uncertainties too. For example there’s debate surrounding the best way to take staff temperature checks. Do employers use handheld thermometers and risk transmission or invest in expensive thermal imaging systems. Or is it best to leave it to the employee themselves, but then how can they keep track of this?

Another problem is airflow. Good ventilation is a key factor in controlling transmission, so what structural changes will companies need to make to ensure that fresh air is being brought into workplaces going forward?

The resolution for issues like these will probably be the product of trial and error over the coming weeks and months, but dealers can take advantage of this opportunity by helping their customers solve these problems, offering expert product knowledge and helping customers find what suits their business.

This is made even easier for dealers who’ve partnered with Office Power, as they can use integrated technology and platform to source products from any supplier on their platform quickly and easily for customers.

Getting to grips with how the PPE trend is changing

The PPE gold rush has been a major talking point in our industry over the past few months, but as Simon McLoughlin, Buying Director at VOW highlighted, we’re starting to see some subtle changes in demand for personal protective equipment.

Changing demand for hand sanitiser is a good example of this. At the beginning of the pandemic, it was liquid gold, and sought after in all shapes, sizes and volumes due to fear of transmission and shortages. However, now that the market has somewhat normalised, buyers want smaller sizes, suitable for individual use and practical for the workplace. Some companies even want personalised PPE and masks, to fit with their brand.

McLoughlin also noted how demand for some social distancing products is fragmented and potentially fragile. While we’ve seen a surge in demand for products like social distancing tape for example, we’ve also seen how this soon becomes scruffy, and right now it’s unknown whether there will be a trend for maintenance.

Work from home (WFH) remains an essential market. With employees fitting in a 7 to 8-hour day at home, businesses are keen to ensure that their staff are fully equipped. With WFH now looking more like our new norm, Mcloughlin spoke about preparations for a rise in demand for ‘fit for purpose’ products and stricter regulations on ergonomic products soon. Employees don’t want clunky office desks and monitors cluttering their home office, but instead will look to more aesthetically pleasing, streamlined products.

At Office Power we have had an increased focus on the new working from home dynamic. We’ve been building some new targeting tools for our CRM system, which will allow dealers to segment customers into those who work from home, the office or both, and target those with specific relevant marketing and offers.

Finally for home schooling, dealers have seen what can be called a ‘B2B but actually C’ customer, buying craft and copier paper, inkjet printers and toners which opens up possible long-term changes in demand for products like this in the future.

To stay on top of these changes, dealers can leverage the technology they use,  look ahead, speak to others in the community and keep up to date with the headlines to try to predict the trends likely to come into play. If you’re a part of the online Office Power Dealer Community, you can stay in touch with other dealers, discuss changing trends, find suppliers and gain valuable insights from webinars and other resources.

The ins and outs of certification.

While there’s been lots of noise surrounding the importance of certification over the past weeks, there’s also been some confusion over credibility.

CE markings are often used as the seal of approval for safe PPE products, but Mcloughlin reminded us that having these alone doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve ticked all the boxes.

With other vital considerations like test certification, modern slavery and EMC testing, it’s still just as important that dealers have done all the due diligence if they’re sourcing PPE products.

Discover more and stay in the loop

If you’re a BOSS Member and would like to find out more about resources, support and information on how you can help make your business COVID Secure, visit the BOSS Federation COVID Secure Roadmap.

For help with finding accredited PPE products, you can also visit BOSS Federation’s COVID Secure Products Portal.

To stay up-to-date with industry news, webinars, insights and more, contact   chris.armstrong@officepower.net or call 07789 004 158 for your login details to the online Office Power Dealer community portal.

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