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Sold on cleanliness

21 July 2016

In a pressured retail environment, preserving the pristine-clean image customers expect needn’t be complicated. James White of Denis Rawlins outlines how shop managers can equip their staff to deliver a consistently effective and efficient cleaning service

We don’t really need market research to tell us that customers expect retail premises to be spick and span. If floors and other surfaces are visibly dirty, it affects the retail experience in a negative way. Surveys by Mintel and others have shown that customers just won’t buy it – or if they do, they won’t come back. 

This is especially true for restaurants and food outlets – where the state of toilets and washrooms can make or break customers’ ratings – but it applies to just about every area of the retail environment.

The more popular a store, showroom, supermarket or shopping mall, the heavier the toll of feet, spills, litter and contamination. It’s not enough to open the doors in the morning to shining floors, when the grime builds up during the shopping day. Not to mention the risk of shoppers slipping and falling on wet floors following a spill or breakage.

Focus on floors

Floor cleaning needs to be as efficient in day-time and emergency clean-ups as it is out-of-hours. In smaller premises, that may mean sales or general staff have to handle cleaning duties. In any event, casual, temporary and new joiners to the cleaning crew need to be able to operate quickly and competently in a pressured environment under the critical eye of your customers.

So how do the managers of retail premises manage these tricky cleaning challenges? With varying degrees of success, in our experience. While many invest in scrubber-driers, and/or rotary polishers, particularly for larger areas of hard flooring, a disturbingly high number still reach for the mop when it comes to responsive cleaning.

It’s disturbing because this is a method that’s tried and tested to fail on every level. Hand mopping is not only a laborious waste of staff time, it’s ineffective, spreads contamination and leaves a slip hazard in its wake. Yellow ‘Wet Floor’ hazard signs shouldn’t be the mark of a retailer’s customer care. As a company committed to science-based cleaning that’s proven to be hygienic and safe, we are campaigning to ‘Chop the Mop’.

Soil removal is the key. Cleaning systems that spray cleaning solution and vacuum away the residue to leave a dry and truly clean floor should be the professional norm in retail, or indeed any premises. The up-front cost for a spray and vac machine shouldn’t be a barrier, bearing in mind the increased productivity and performance.

It’s true that scrubber-driers may well be over-priced (and over-engineered) for the task – and that often includes out-of-hours cleaning as well as emergency response clean-ups. But there are more cost-effective alternatives.

Comparative tests have shown that the low-cost OmniFlex AutoVac performs on a par with a more hi-tech scrubber-drier, removing 99% of bacteria from a hard floor. Even a microfibre mop achieved 50% at best, before re-contaminating clean areas so its overall effectiveness dropped to 24%.

The AutoVac is easy to use, combining the multiple steps required with a scrubber-drier in a single pass – dispensing, spreading, cleaning and vacuuming. This is a major advantage as any member of staff can do the job effectively. Whether clearing up a spillage or cleaning in toilets or elsewhere, specialist cleaners or general staff appreciate being professionally equipped for the task.

Compared with mopping, the productivity gains are significant. The AutoVac is three to four times more efficient. The battery version even outperforms the largest ride-on scrubber-driers, by cleaning up to 20,000ft2 per hour. It’s equally well suited to working round shoppers, quietly and efficiently cleaning up after spills and breakages. Retail site managers should also look for complementary capabilities to dry-vacuum carpeting and – using accessories – to strip and finish floors, extract grease from between kitchen tiles, and clean toilets. 

If the key to retail is in the detail, that includes getting the cleaning regime consistently right.