Retailers retain prices amid implementation of SOPs


MANY retailers are absorbing the additional costs to impose the strict standard operating procedures (SOPs) as businesses seek to win back customers with attractive pricing after months of almost zero footfall to their outlets.

The government had relaxed the Covid-19 circuit breakers in recent weeks after the country’s retail sector came to an almost grinding halt with estimated sales losses in the billions.

Retail Group Malaysia MD Tan Hai Hsin said most retailers had chosen not to increase their retail prices of their products and services to comply with the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) SOPs.

“They know if they do (increase prices) due to current social distancing measures, they will chase away their regular customers,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) recently.

Tan said store owners are desperate for business and they could not afford to pass the cost increases to customers.

Retail outlets had recently opened after Covid-19 ceased to be a health menace as the number of infections dropped to a single digit.

But many retailers had shuttered with Speedy Video Distributors Sdn Bhd being the latest victim of the pandemic. The once popular video distributor is having a closing-down sale at all its outlets.

The strict SOPs are a bane for businesses. Haircut and hairdressing services for example incur additional costs for the use of face shields, plastic aprons and disposable kits for each customer.

Malaysian Hairdressing Association president Michael Poh said there would not be any additional service charges, but customers need to bear the exact costs of the face shields and plastic aprons.

“We buy the required face shields and disposable plastic aprons for each customer, and the cost of that is the only additional charges for the customers. The prices of services remain,” he told TMR.

Poh said some shops chose not to pass the charges to their clients.

“It is not about making money because some barbers or salons’ prices are already low and (still) they choose not to burden their customers.

“As we have to practice social distancing, the space capacity in hair salons is also reduced.”

Poh said hair salons have to adhere to 39 SOP guidelines. The new rules also demand salons to allocate two hours a day from 9am to 11am for the elderly and children.

A check with a local hairdresser showed it is imposing a RM5 extra surcharge on every customer.

Each customer is charged for disposable capes (80 sen), hand glove (60 sen), comb disinfectant (RM1.20), scissors and hair clipper disinfectant (RM1.50), hand sanitiser (30 sen) and disinfecting of the barber chair, working table and floor (60 sen).

Last week, the government agreed to allow barber shops, beauty parlours and hair salons to raise their rates — but only for extra costs incurred in complying with the RMCO SOPs, and not for their services or products.

Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi said the new rates should be in line with the additional costs that barbers and hairdressers incur to keep themselves and their customers safe from Covid-19.