COVID-19: Advice for musical instrument retailers


In this article, we provide some specific advice for musical instrument retailers in relation to the Coronavirus. Simon Pollard, MIA Director and Managing Director of the Millers Group, has answered some key, practical questions based on his experience in dealing with the public on the shop floor…

This follows on from our previous article: COVID-19: Advice for the musical instrument industry. The MIA will bring you updates as often as we can to help MI businesses navigate this difficult situation.

Here are the questions that we put to Simon: 

Q: Should retailers stop taking cash?

A: In early March, The Telegraph reported “Banknotes may be spreading the new coronavirus so people should try to use contactless payments instead, the World Health Organisation has said”. The Daily Mail also said that the “World Health Organisation has advised public against using paper money”. Other news outlets have made similar claims.

These claims are actually false; The W.H.O are not telling people not to use paper money, but they are advising everyone to wash their hands after using money, especially if handling or eating food.

To be safe, you could encourage use of card machines and ideally contactless, and try to have a sanitiser close for team members who may handle cash. In our businesses, we have restricted cash handling to a single till in the store.

Q: How do retailers handle a customer sneezing or coughing, especially into their hands?

This is tricky, we understand some people may be frightened by this. We have advised all our teams to offer customers tissues and once they do, say “we do have sanitiser available”. This is polite and helpful without being accusatory. Keep a reasonable distance from customers; 1-2 metres where possible.

Q: What actions can retailers take in the store?

A: We’re opening slightly later so that we can perform a thorough clean of doors, counters, computers, and areas where customers may touch. Instruments, especially wind, are being thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

Q: What should a retail business do if somebody doesn’t want to come to work?

A: Firstly if you have the option, then offer home working, but this may not be possible in many retail or warehouse roles. Handle each person on an individual basis, understand the underlying issue and try to see what accommodations can be reasonably made to help the person.

Offer reassurance. We shouldn’t forget that fear is driving a lot of the behaviour that we’re seeing now, most people who contract COVID-19 will only experience mild flu-like symptoms, although there are obviously far more serious consequences, especially for the vulnerable. Anybody experiencing a persistent cough and fever should obviously follow government advice, and self-isolate – this has now been extended to 14 days for a household.

Q: What are your primary concerns, and what will happen if you have to close the stores?

We are discussing the ever-changing situation as a team each day. Our primary concern is the safety of our people, and should there be any indication that risk has been increased then we will take action to protect our teams. We can still complete a number of tasks with the stores closed, such as booking in deliveries, stock counts, web work, and dispatch.

Q: Are there any changes in consumer behaviour that you’ve noticed?

What we have noticed is an increase in enquiries, particularly for customers who are concerned about being at home for a prolonged period. Music can be a great stress reliever and help you to relax, many customers will be looking for this be it a new instrument, sheet music, or some accessories to continue their playing.

You might have seen the uplifting videos of apartment building residents in Italy singing and playing instruments on their balconies to boost morale (read more and watch the videos here). Through our retail businesses, we are able to bring people comfort and joy in a difficult time.

Practical Help available TODAY:

The NAMM Foundation are hosting a Free Online Workshop: “Teaching and Learning Music Online” that takes place today at 4pm UK time

Teaching and learning music can continue and even thrive through the remarkable tools, resources and people that are engaging in music online. The webinar workshop will explore:

  • How to be more comfortable teaching online
  • Where to go for support from experts and music educators
  • How to create or adjust your lesson plans for an online learning environment
  • Where you can look for free and intuitive resources as both teacher and learner (all ages!)
  • How to keep things simple so you don’t get overwhelmed

Register for the Webinar here

Look out for some more operational, HR and general guidance from the MIA and its partners in the coming days. In the meantime, please continue to follow Public Health England recommendations and Government advice.