Convenience stores will be at the heart of satisfying lunchtime appetites and afterschool sugar fixes as pupils return from their summer breaks. So as local shops prepare for an extra influx of peckish children and teenagers, what challenges could they face?
“The restart of the school term has certainly added in some additional pressures to the overall management of queuing, customer numbers, customer flow within the store and the need to maintain social distancing,” said Scottish Grocers Federation head of public affairs John Lee.
Shops in Scotland have already experienced the afterschool rush since schools returned on 11 August.
“Queues have been longer during school lunchtimes and at the end of the school day - I noticed this myself yesterday when I was doing the school run.”
Lee explained children wearing face masks could also prove to be a challenge due to lack of habit.
“Up until now, parents have been discouraged from bringing children to stores. As such, kids might not be used to the new norm of socially distanced shopping.”
”This is a good time to re-engage with local schools.”
So how can c-stores in England prepare for the imminent torrent of school traffic from the week commencing 31 August?
Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) chief executive James Lowman said: “Many retailers already work closely with their local schools, so this is a good time to re-engage with them, let them know your policies on how many customers can come into the shop, and ask them to support colleagues by wearing face coverings and queueing patiently if needed.”
Amrit Pahal, owner of a Nisa store in High Heath, Walsall, has done exactly that.
“We have a very open and productive relationship with the school in our area,” he explains. “Every morning, the headteacher walks down to our store just to ask us how we’re doing, or if there are any issues.
“So between our team at the shop, the headteacher, and the other teachers, we’ve come up with a plan to make sure we do everything as safe as possible come September.”
Amrit outlined how there are hand sanitation dispensers at points of entry and exit, social distancing guidelines will continue to be adhered to and him and his team will ensure all children “are masked up”.
“Think of it like a check list. You check your wallet, you check your phone, and now you just need to add a mask to that check list,” he said.
However, he explained there will be a focus on secondary school children in regard to monitoring face masks.
“There’s two primary schools near me and one secondary. The primary school kids will just be with their parents, so that will be self-explanatory.
“But it’s the secondary school kids that come on in own, not with their parents, who will be our focus.”
He also explained how sometimes he gets herds of six children or so, but only one of them is buying a lollipop – for example. “So we might put in a policy that you can only come in if you’re buying something,” he added. “We haven’t got the capacity for them to be tagging along with their mates.”