Should we wear Face Masks in Retail Stores?
Throughout the world, governments are slowly easing the restrictions and lifting the stay-at-home orders which were put into force to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. This is great news for long-suffering retailers and boutique owners who will now be able to re-open their doors to the public and get back to the task of bringing the latest fashion trends to their customers. But for business owners, re-opening stores raises a number of questions, the most pressing of which are - should we be using face masks? do face masks even work? and should customers be asked to wear face masks?
Should we be using face masks?
Whether or not you are obliged to wear face masks is, at its most basic level, down to your government's regulations. Some countries (and some states in the US) have introduced mandates requiring both staff and customers to wear masks, particularly where limited space makes maintaining the recommended 2 metres social distance difficult or impossible. But what if government guidelines are unclear? In this case you will need to use your best judgement, which brings us to the next question:
Do face masks even work?
Unfortunately there is a lack of consensus from scientists as to the efficacy of face coverings and their usefulness in slowing the Covid19 epidemic. The World Health Organisation (WHO) only officially recommends that face masks be worn by people showing symptoms or those who are caring for people suspected to have the virus. However, the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone over the age of 2 should wear a cloth face mask in social situations and public settings where it's difficult to maintain social distancing. So why the difference in opinion?
The problem is that fabric face masks don't provide guaranteed protection for the wearer, and their use raises a number of concerns that they offer a false sense of security which in turn causes users to give less importance to frequent hand washing and social distancing – both proven as the most effective ways to reduce the spread of the virus. There is also the concern that masks do not protect from airborne vapour which could carry the disease, thus rendering them ineffective. However, the physical barrier provided by a mask helps block the tiny droplets of saliva which are expelled when we breathe, speak or cough, thus providing an enhanced measure of protection, if not for the wearer, then for those around them. Indeed, if used as a supplementary measure on top of the recommended prevention methods, data has proven that those countries which implemented compulsory mask-wearing rules (such as the Czech Republic and Slovakia) and those which have a tradition of wearing face masks to prevent the spread of disease (such as South Korea, China & Japan), have a significantly lower infection rate than those countries which haven't recommended the use of masks on a large scale.
Should customers be asked to wear face masks?
This is an issue which is causing controversy around the globe. Videos on social media are rife with retail staff being abused by angry customers who don't want to wear a mask in their store, or with protests about invasions of civil liberty. It's understandable that retailers may not want to lose potential customers or put their staff at risk from harassment by disgruntled customers. However, as face masks serve as a tool to prevent transmission from the wearer to others (rather than protecting the wearer from the virus), their effectiveness is only really appreciable if everyone wears them. It is estimated that 25% of those infected with Coronavirus are asymptomatic but still highly contagious, so any extra measure which can help protect both our staff and customers must be taken into serious consideration. Whether or not you decide to enforce the wearing of masks in your store, it would be a conscientious option to offer face masks to those customers who don't have them, hopefully encouraging their use if not mandating it.
What kind of face masks should we use?
Medical grade masks (N95 grade masks) should be reserved for healthcare workers who require the extra protection, particularly as many countries are suffering PPE shortages during the health crisis. Standard disposable face masks are an option, but they can work out expensive as they should only be used once before being thrown away – not a great option for the environment either. The simple fabric mask, now widely available in a range of designs, seems to be the best option. By using washable face masks when interacting with colleagues and customers, plus doing our best to maintain the recommended social distance and sanitising our hands and environment as often as possible, we can do our part to help halt the spread of the Coronavirus and protect the people most important to us.
Whether you are looking to provide face masks for your staff to wear, want to gift face masks to customers visiting your store, or would like to offer a range of fashionable designs to sell to customers, TradeGala has the a wide selection of wholesale face masks which will meet your needs.
Written by Amber Domenech Patey