How Shopping Centres Can Eliminate Queue Management Pressures

retail queue management

Informative advice from Pearlai CEO, Peter McCaul, on how shopping centres and retailers should approach re-opening after lockdown and the health and safety measures that need to be put into place.

With the UK Government indicating that a phased opening of non-essential retail can potentially start from June 1st, it’s time for shopping centres and retailers to make key decisions on the post-lockdown approach.

Through discussions with our current clients in the UK, Ireland and Portugal and industry leaders on the current scenario I’ve found that the main worry for shopping centre managers and retailers is queue management. 

I have seen several examples on social media recently which may petrify many shoppers, retailers and shopping centre owners, like this clip of an overcrowded car park at a B&Q store in Dublin. 

Could this be the scenario at your shopping centre or store in a few weeks’ time?  I hope not, nobody wants their customers standing in the pouring rain for a long period of time, just to get a short visit into your store or centre. 

The future is challenging, no doubt about it, but there has never been a better time to implement new concepts.


Unashamed plug coming – Péarlaí has developed a radical (not) concept. You don’t need to manage queues at your shopping centres and stores, if you don’t have queues. Queues can be largely avoided through a VIP timeslot booking system.

Give your VIP shoppers the opportunity to book their time slots for their visit to your shopping centre and appointments for individual retailers within the centre through Péarlaí Protect.

Péarlaí Protect will offer a much more enjoyable customer experience, your shoppers will book their appointments through a user friendly platform after registering to become a VIP shopper, retailers will get a full insight into the number of expected visitors in the hours, days and weeks ahead as well as demographic information on those shoppers. 

This system has many benefits, it will make it easier for retailers to schedule their staff rota based on the expected figures and it will allow retailers to offer unique sales or promotions on the days with less expected visitors.

You may be wondering what happens when a shopper arrives without having an appointment booked, as it could result in them having to wait for the numbers within your centre or store to reach an acceptable level before they can enter.  But surely this would only motivate those individuals into signing up to become a VIP shopper and using the appointment booking system to avoid a repeat experience.


Many retailers have stated their general plan is a combination of protective screens at tills, hand sanitizers, massive sales to encourage shoppers back and some are even considering advising customers to avoid touching merchandise to lower the risk of spreading the COVID-19 infection, but not much has been stated about choking footfall. ASDA are trailing a virtual booking system that will prevent people from having to queue outside, but customers will still need to wait outside the premises in their vehicles until they get the green light to enter the store.

Founding and Managing Director at BINKS, Roger Binks, feels these measures could lead to a complete disaster for retailers: “It looks like a storm is brewing, restricted customer numbers, massive sales, reduced services, and potentially higher costs of operations. Not a good combination and one that will result in a very poor customer experience.”


Now is the time for innovative thinking and implementation, No one likes to queue, so take it out of the equation and implement a solution which can reap short, medium and long term rewards. There are so many incumbent companies out there trying to take advantage of the situation by offering solutions at high costs.

That’s not the answer in the aftermath of a lockdown, you need to look for new, smarter low-cost alternatives that will use new technology and business models to undercut and disrupt the occupants in your market. Investing in innovation is no longer a nice-to-have, it has become a necessity to stay in the game.

3 Responses
  1. Pat Reid

    Customers will stay for different lengths of time so how do you predict how many shoppers in store at any one time.Booking only indicates when they go in?
    Thanks Pat

    1. Peter McCaul

      Hi Pat,

      That’s right and there will be a period at the beginning where each retailer will need to leave a level of buffer to take that scenario into account EG If a retailer is allowed 10 people into their store at a time they allow 7 of those to be booked through the booking platform and 3 are free for walk-ins and taking into consideration those who stay longer than planed. When shoppers book their slot they enter how long they intend to visit for which is also taken into consideration for each time slot available. As Péarlaí can count VIP’s in store through their VIP fob there is the potential if required to send them SMS while they shop if they over stay their time period (we don’t like the thought of that but it maybe required). Péarlaí’s system is ideally placed to adapt to specific request if and when required.

  2. Nick

    Pat, essentially like an ISP (internet service provider) the traffic needs to be managed. Footfall counting will give an entering and leaving profile. You set a desired capacity utilisation % and establish busy periods when capacity needs to be throttled. VIP queuing would only be a peak time feature to throttle traffic (imho). After a period of time you could refine the capacity model if people leave more quickly on some days.

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