Safe sampling in the Nordics: How we’re bringing demos back in Costco, Reykjavik

Safe sampling in the Nordics - How we’re bringing demos back in Costco, Reykjavik

In the UK, live product demonstrations and food sampling have been on hold since lockdown began at the end of March. Now, as lockdown eases, retailers like Costco are all set to start offering samples and demos once again. So, how do we ensure we’re safe and Covid-secure? Here’s everything you need to know…

Although we haven’t re-started demonstrations or product sampling here in the UK, we have been busy re-introducing demos in Reykjavik since the middle of June. With a relatively small Covid-19 outbreak, hospitality businesses in Iceland have remained open during the pandemic. However, Costco demos were halted. By June, there were virtually no cases in the country, which meant it was safe to reinstate live demos.

Our trial with the new Covid-19 protocols began in Iceland on the 18th June, and has been successfully running since then. As we prepare to reinstate live demos here in the UK, we’re using what we’ve learned and the feedback we’ve received to facilitate our safe re-opening.

Keeping members and ambassadors safe

The most obvious, visible changes are PPE for brand ambassadors, as well as changes to the demo units themselves. Each unit has a sneeze screen: a clear perspex screen designed to protect both members and brand ambassadors from coughing, sneezing and any other risks of airborne transmission. All units also have hand sanitiser, which is for both brand ambassadors and members to use. 

In terms of PPE, all brand ambassadors wear face masks or visors, gloves and plastic disposable aprons. Gloves are changed every half an hour and the units are sanitised regularly throughout the day.

When we initially reopened in Iceland, our demos were mainly informative, ‘talking’ demonstrations, rather than sampling. We started by focussing on non-food products, including hand sanitiser and disinfectant sprays, as well as some individually wrapped products such as sweets and drinks. This allowed us to ease back into sampling with the new protocols, and gave customers the chance to slowly readjust to the ‘new normal’.

After four weeks, we slowly introduced more food sampling – with a difference, of course. Costco customers are used to seeing trays laden with 10 or more samples from which they help themselves. Now, we place one single sample on a tray at a time. This helps to prevent any potential contamination of the samples.

Preparation and training

Once we’d established what we needed to put in place in order to be Covid-19 secure, we had to ensure all our staff and brand ambassadors were fully trained and up to speed. 

We created a detailed information pack and slide deck, outlining the PPE requirements and how to use it properly, how to maintain hygiene and sanitation, and how to communicate the changes to customers. As well as informing our brand ambassadors on what they needed to do to be Covid-secure, we made sure they knew why each element was crucial.

COVID sampling

Every WDS brand ambassador was trained by a manager and signed off before being allowed to work under the new Covid-safe regulations. In addition to training, to further ensure the safety of Costco members, all our staff are screened every morning. Apart from being asked if they’ve experienced any Covid symptoms over the past 48 hours, we take every brand ambassador’s temperature to ensure they’re safe to work.

Learnings for UK demos

Unsurprisingly, Costco members were delighted to see live demos back in the warehouse. The only minor complaint was that there weren’t more food samples to begin with! This is something which is gradually changing. We began tentatively with wrapped products, and this week, cold foods (like cheese and deli meats) are being sampled. Phase three will be reintroducing cooked foods, which is something we look forward to doing over the next four to six weeks.

“Costco are happy and satisfied that their members’ safety is our number one priority.”

The big positive takeaway is that all the protocols we’ve put in place in Iceland have worked. Our brand ambassadors are happy with the safety measures, members seem thrilled to have us back, and Costco are happy and satisfied that their members’ safety is our number one priority.

Re-introducing our live demos and sampling in Iceland has been the perfect opportunity to trial our Covid-secure protocols before opening in the UK. What we’ve learned is that although things are different, and we all need to get used to the ‘new normal’, the essence of live demonstrations – and why customers love them – hasn’t changed.

See our blog for more information about how we’re bringing back demos in the UK.