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November 2020

[UPDATE] Hidden germs at the mall

Written by Bakang Kganyago
Hygiene and COVID-19, Cleanliness and Hygiene

Shopping during the Covid-19 pandemic poses a myriad of challenges. In this blog we take a look at those hidden germs in the mall that you should be looking out for.

We are reaching the end of what may be one of the craziest years ever. This year - unlike previous years - brings with it a level of nervousness to the usually fun ( well, for some people)  year-end shopping. Regardless, you will start seeing a noticeable increase in foot traffic in our malls over the next month, and as shoppers we need to be prepared in order to keep ourselves healthy. Read our recent blog on how to handle money for some additional safe shopping tips. Malls also need to take proactive steps towards retail hygiene and keeping shoppers safe. If you are a retailer, take a look at our checklist for preparing for the holidays. 

How busy do you think a mall can get?

The Mall of Africa, located in the Waterfall Estate between Midrand and Sandton, attracted in excess of 1.5 million in foot traffic in its first full month of trade, according to its management team. Though this number may be a lot less during the pandemic, malls have seen an influx of traffic lately as we get more comfortable with the 'new normal'.

My mind immediately gravitates towards the many hygiene concerns that may be present in such a busy mall, and to which we get exposed (especially during busy times like Christmas). It’s not just about the soap or toilet paper running out in the most popular stall of the mall bathroom. (Thinking of which, have you ever wondered why some public stalls are more popular than others? Find out why here).

This week I would like to point out some of the hidden germs in the mall: 

Phone and electronic stores:

shopping for electronics and phones during covid-19


The store displays at phone and electronics shops are most effective when browsing shoppers can interact with the products. The strategy is sound, as people are more likely to buy after experiencing the features, however, have you taken a moment to think about how many people have done the same on any given day?  It is said that our cell phones have more bacteria on them than a toilet seat. Imagine one that's been handled by several other people aside from yourself - sounds like the perfect vehicle for spreading COVID-19. That's not to say you shouldn't indulge in the fascination of the next big tech, but you might want to wash or sanitise your hands afterwards.

For store managers, I’d recommend wiping down your demo products with a sanitiser as part of your cleaning routine - just make sure the sanitiser being used is ‘technology safe’.  Additionally, provide sanitisers at tech-stations so customers can fully experience your products knowing that they can sanitise before and after doing so.

Food menus & tables:

touching menus during covid-19


After a long day shopping, you may need some refreshment, but think about this: have you ever seen waiters or waitresses disinfect menus or condiments before handing them to you? Now imagine how many people touch those menus every day, let alone in a week or month!

The same can be said for tables and counters. We often rely on the idea that they are clean because we’ve seen waiters clean tables and wipe down sauce bottles before we sit, but is that enough to keep the germs away? It’s debatable. The cloths used to do all the cleaning potentially spread bacteria such as E. coli if they’re not regularly washed and disinfected.

For customers, I’d advise keeping a pack of disinfecting wipes with you just in case, and a travel sized hand sanitiser. For restaurants, have you critically evaluated your ‘during service’ cleaning routine? Maybe start with a disinfectant spray for table cleaning, or consider going digital by offering customers the opportunity to scan a QR code and download your menu to their phones, eliminating the need to touch a physical menu.

Clothing stores and change rooms:

using changing rooms at the mall during covid-19


Many shops closed their change rooms during the stricter phases of lockdown, and were not allowing shoppers to try things on, but as this slowly changes back and change rooms open up again, shoppers need to be aware of the large amount of traffic that can pass through a change room. 

Change rooms need to be regularly disinfected to prevent cross-contamination. Initial’s solution to the problem is an anti-bacterial fogging treatment whereby an ultra-low volume fogging machine is used to generate tiny droplets of specialist disinfectant that will cover every surface, crack or crevice in the change room. The preparation used is a high-level disinfectant that kills up to 99.9999% of a broad range of pathogens upon contact within seconds and has been tested and proved effective  against Coronavirus.

Escalator handrails and lift buttons:

using escalators and lifts during covid-19


Escalator handrails and lift buttons are a good place to start should you be shopping for cross infection. CBS news quoted microbiologist Charles P. Gerba’s findings which stated that they found food, E. coli, urine, mucus, faeces, and blood on escalator handrails. They also found respiratory flora on handrails, which comes as no surprise as people cough into their hands, then touch the rails, a possible vehicle for COVID-19 cross-contamination.

My advice would be to avoid handrails wherever possible, and sanitise your hands afterwards. As for the lift buttons, I’ve learned a neat trick of pressing the button with my elbow, or any other part of my body that won’t touch my face. Read more about the top 6 surfaces to avoid  in a public space here

I hope that I haven't put you off a fun trip to the mall with your family these holidays. Bear in mind that it's almost impossible to avoid germs altogether, however being aware of the more obvious risk spots, coupled with regular hand washing, sanitising, mask wearing and social distancing will help you to stay safe in the mall this festive season.

For more helpful hygiene tips and trends, subscribe to our Insights blog. You may also like to download our COVID-19 Hygiene Resources Pack for Retailers, to help remind your staff and customer of the importance of hygiene practices.

Get free covid-19 resources from Initial Hygiene specialists

Bakang Kganyago

Bakang Kganyago

Bakang is a Digital Marketing Executive for Rentokil Initial. A germaphobe at heart, he's passionate about learning and sharing insights on how to defeat the enemy we cannot see. Join his journey as he writes about the impact of germs in our daily lives.

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