Keep Retail Flooring in Showcase Form

July 12, 2004
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It's typically a last minute, in-and-out scenario: the mad dash into a retail store. Whether it's a sprint inside your local mall for Aunt Susie's birthday gift or a trip to your supermarket to pick up milk and bread, rushing in and out of a retail outlet, for many, is a daily occurrence.

As a professional in the commercial floor care industry, some days you may feel like it's you against them:

  • Rain, dirt, salt, mud and whatever else may be found on the bottom of shoppers' shoes.
  • Broken egg whites ooze out of the carton and onto the floor by the dairy case.
  • Shopping carts with bad wheels dig into the flooring, leaving a trail of floor marks behind.
  • Rushing to check out, a man dumps his Diet Coke down the side of the scanner and onto the floor.

    It's this heavy, random traffic that takes a daily toll on the retail flooring you are charged with preserving, the showcase "wet look" gloss floors desired by retail managers around the country. If you currently provide floor care services to the retail sector, you know what a challenge it is to keep flooring in showcase form. But it doesn't have to be.

    Look at some of the situations that wear and tear on flooring in a common retail destination: the grocery store. From the small, independent stores to the large, 24-hour superstores, grocery stores in particular are high-traffic venues whose flooring gets a daily workout from both patrons and the supermarket's staff.

    Consider what the store's flooring is up against on a daily basis:

  • Constant traffic at all hours, with peak traffic occurring between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., the time when you want the floor to look its best.
  • Milk drips from a cracked plastic gallon jug, leaving spots up and down nearly every aisle near the dairy case.
  • Running over a spilled item with the shopping cart, and then dragging that item throughout the store.
  • A mother pushing a cart overflowing with groceries (and two kids) pounds down the aisle. The cart has a bad wheel that is locked up and grinding into the new finish that was laid on the floor just last night.
  • An assortment of spills can be found on the floors: everything from food and drinks (from samples) and salad bar offerings to spills from leaky milk and juice containers.
  • Dropped fruits and vegetables and other items that bleed, ooze or splatter on the floor.
  • Pallets stocked high with heavy products.

    While the large volume of people inside the store can put a beating on flooring, it can also cause problems for the cleaning crew. Stores open 24 hours will see visitors at all hours of the night. Even though the crowds may be lighter at 2 a.m., activity inside the store can be in full swing, and shoppers and store personnel become obstacles for the cleaning crew. Store personnel use the time to bring the heavy pallets up and down the aisles to restock the shelves. Activity in the store at all hours of the night is one of the biggest challenges cleaning professionals will face. That's why a successful floor care maintenance program needs to delay the time between the maintenance needs that cease traffic: the most dreaded, smelliest, intrusive part of floor care - stripping and refinishing a floor.

    Select an Ultra-High-Speed Finish
    The first step in your retail floor care plan is to select the finish. In a supermarket setting, a high-maintenance flooring scenario, it's essential to select an ultra-high-speed (UHS) burnishable finish that is designed to "snap back" and provide what every retail manager wants: the desired "wet look" gloss after burnishing. It's important to make sure that the finish has the right balance of attributes that will provide the durability to stand up to traffic with an excellent burnish response to give the "wet look." Choosing the correct finish for a high-frequency maintenance habit is key. Choosing the wrong finish would not yield the desired look.

    Implement a High-Frequency Maintenance Plan
    After you select the UHS floor finish, your supermarket maintenance plan should match the finish - that is, it should be done in a high-frequency manner to provide the highest level of floor gloss your store desires. Many stores find daily (or every other day) UHS burnishing is the best way to maximize the appearance of their finished floors over time. To accomplish this, the maintenance program you implement should consist of four sound steps.

    First, in the high-traffic supermarket setting, a daily maintenance program is the single most important element in a floor maintenance program. This includes a daily dust mopping (preceded by vacuuming and picking up all walk-off mats) followed by damp mopping or auto-scrubbing.

    While dust mopping will remove grit and loose soil on the finished floor surface, auto-scrubbing or mopping is an essential daily step that will get rid of particulate soil, the biggest cause of floor wear, discoloration and damage to the finish. In a supermarket, an effective way to get rid of this soil is to use a floor cleaner that is both effective in removing this particulate soil and will have a "neutral impact" on floor finishes. It's important that the neutral cleaner not be "neutral to dirt." Dirt and grit left behind by inadequate cleaning can accelerate wear and darkening of the finish.

    After you have successfully removed surface dirt and soils, the next step is to burnish the floor. For a supermarket's floor care plan, it needs to include daily burnishing that will remove surface imperfections remaining after auto-scrubbing, and of course, bring the "wet look" of the finish gloss back to its peak. Remember though, if soils are not removed during the dust mop and damp mop procedures, the soils could damage the flooring during burnishing.

    Next, your floor care program should prevent damage to the floor finish and delay the most expensive floor care maintenance. In a supermarket setting, burnishing can be enhanced by applying a mop-on restorer prior to burnishing, applied as needed, possibly once per month or more often in ultra-high-traffic or problem areas. Typically, a dillutable mop-on restorer is used after the daily cleaning (this will alleviate the "shiny dirt" syndrome), allowed to dry, and then burnished. This will give the floor gloss that extra "pop" while simultaneously applying some minor repair to the finish.

    Interim maintenance for retail floors includes scrubbing and recoating, and should be employed when flooring shows noticeable traffic-lane wear, scratches and soiling that need to be fixed in order to meet the customer's high-gloss requirements. Scrubbing and recoating, the more intensive and expensive floor care maintenance steps, will even out the floor appearance by removing the top layers of finish and recoating to build on the base finish. In a supermarket setting, you can expect to do this once every three months in high-traffic areas, and once every sixth months in a less-frequented area of the store. This frequency will vary depending upon your customer's requirements, the amount of store traffic, and the durability and quality of the floor finish used.

    Choosing high-performing products will lengthen this frequency. The key is that if daily and preventative floor care maintenance steps are designed to support your UHS finish, the expensive step of scrubbing, recoating and adding one or more new coats of finish can be extended. Reducing this frequency will lower your total retail floor care cost.

    Finally, restorative maintenance - stripping and refinishing the floors - is the most expensive part of your retail floor care program and essentially means starting over. In a supermarket setting, this step is intrusive because it will require shutting down the store by areas, preventing shoppers from browsing and buying products, and store personnel from restocking. Extending the time between these costly processes will lower your total floor program cost. A sound daily, preventative and interim maintenance program for retail flooring may be able to extend this beyond the normal once per year frequency.

    High-Frequency Maintenance Program Doesn't Equal High Cost
    The floor care program you choose to implement for your supermarket or retail clients should be designed to address the hundreds or thousands of people who traipse through the store on a daily basis. The program will be most successful when it is a high-frequency program consisting of four sound maintenance steps - daily, preventative and interim maintenance that will extend the time between the costly restorative maintenance. After all, a showcase floor means as much to the shopper as it does to the manager: 91 percent of consumers ranked a "clean, neat store" as important as "high-quality produce" when surveyed on how they determine where to shop for groceries.

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