Preparing For Social Distancing

Capacity and Demand

Capacity and demand are two key elements which should first be considered when planning social distancing measures.


The capacity of your retail space, event or facility is determined by a number of factors:

  • Available circulation space – How many square metres are available in your space for people to move around.

  • Entry – How many people can enter per minute.

  • Exit – How many people can exit per minute.

  • Service points - Any point where people will come into contact with a process for example, checkouts and concessions.

Demand is defined as the number of people you expect to visit your facility or attend your event. There will be peaks and troughs in demand throughout the day and you will know when your busy periods are.  Try to break your demand down into hour slots to understand your peak periods across a whole day and where you may have capacity to accommodate more people.  For events, consider 15 minute time slots to take account of peak periods during ingress and egress. 

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Where possible try to spread this demand over a longer time period.  This is good for the visitor and also good for business:

  • Visitors spend less time queuing so are more likely to visit again.  

  • More of your capacity is used up as the demand is spread over a longer time

  • Fewer people turned away due to excessive queues.


When demand exceeds capacity, queues form.  Where queues are expected interventions should be put in place to keep these to a minimum and reduce the risk of people gathering.  Practical guidance on queue planning can be found on the Queue Planning page.


Where retail facilities have their own car parks, demand can be managed by restricting how many vehicles can enter the car park.  This can be determined by the store capacity under social distancing measures.  To avoid conflict with drivers, advanced warning should be provided that a car park is at full capacity.  Information can be posted on websites, social media and advanced road signage.  Advice can be provided detailing when the facility is likely to be quieter.

The customer or spectator journey

So when should you first engage your consumer or visitors in social distancing?  We often talk about the spectator journey in an Olympic context.  That journey starts when someone is first considering buying a ticket.  The same can be applied in any industry context, if you are a small grocery shop, high street department store, festival or sports venue.  Think about what information is available on your website regarding social distancing, as this is your first opportunity to inform and educate.  Confidence can be built with the customer that you have made adequate preparations to receive customers and maintain high levels of customer welfare. 


You may want to make people aware of when you expect the store to be quieter to help flatten the curve of arrivals.  The same can be achieved at events by asking attendees to arrive early.  Some will arrive early, some won’t which will again help flatten the curve of demand.

Public domain 

Any use of the public domain should be carefully planned and undertaken in conjunction with the local council and neighbouring stores.  Business Improvement Districts play a key coordinating role between the local councils and commercial operations.  Further guidance can be found on the Councils and BIDs page.  

Image by José Martín Ramírez C