Posted: 31/08/2021

Retailers’ views on extending mask wearing in store

We asked three fine food retailers for their opinions on the end of mask mandates and continuing to wear masks in their stores.

mask wearing

Barry Hutchinson, co-owner, Hutchinson Hobbs Farm Shop, nr Stockton-on-Tees

We’ve had quite a heated discussion about mask-wearing. My view was to stick to government guidelines, then you can’t really go wrong. If people still want to wear a mask they can, and if people choose not to that’s their decision.

All our staff have had two doses of the vaccine and we’re only a shop with no café, so people on average only spend 10 minutes here. 

I also didn’t want our staff asking people to wear a mask in the shop as this could cause unnecessary stress and conflict. 

My wife and mum on the other hand passionately wanted to make the staff and customers keep wearing masks. In the end, I convinced them that we would advise wearing a mask but ultimately, it’s the customer’s choice. 

We asked our staff to keep wearing masks when among customers. Again, without patronising anybody, we feel people can make their own judgement. 

On ‘Freedom Day’, most customers kept their masks on with only a couple not wearing them. We still have a few members of staff wearing masks, and we feel going forward, as customers feel increasingly confident more will start taking them off.

mask wearing

Oliver Stubbins, manager, Welbeck Farm Shop, Nottinghamshire

We still require staff and customers to wear masks unless medically exempt. The number of COVID cases reported is increasing, so it seems the wrong time to decrease protection. 

Half of the team across the shop and café are not double jabbed yet. We have staff members in their 20s and 30s waiting for their second dose, under-18s too young to be vaccinated, a pregnant staff member, and some with underlying health conditions that still need protection. 

We’re seeing a good take-up of masks anyway and only had customers who’ve said they’re exempt not wearing one. We can’t challenge whether people are exempt or not. If somebody says they’re exempt, we will take it at face value.

We’ve also decided to provide disposable face masks for free if somebody visits the shop without one because they think that they don’t need to wear it.

We don’t want to wear masks at work for eight hours a day. We sell a lot over the counter to customers which can be difficult when you’re wearing a mask, but it doesn’t feel right or safe to relax now.”

mask wearing

Shane Godwin, managing director, Macknade Food Hall, Faversham, Kent

We’ve decided that our staff will continue to wear masks, but we’re allowing customers who choose not to wear a mask into the shop.

Personal responsibility and freedom of choice is something that we were happy for customers to have, but while we’re not enforcing mask wearing, we are strongly recommending it through our communications and signage. 

I also didn’t want to put our staff in the position of having an angry confrontation with a customer who feels strongly that they shouldn’t wear a mask. That’s an argument that I didn’t feel we needed to have.

Fortunately, there’s been a good response from the community and our staff are comfortable with our decision. 

We saw many customers continue to wear a mask on ‘Freedom Day’. Our sales didn’t drop off and no-one panicked, so I think they trust that what we’re doing is the right thing. 

We’ve got a great team on the floor so we will certainly be able to manage any problems that may arise, but I don’t think there will be any drama.

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