KANSAS CITY, MO. – Experts warn that the week of April 6 will be the worst week yet in the United States for the number of cases and deaths amidst the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In response, US grocers have further strengthened precautions being taken in their stores to keep consumers and employees safe.
More stores are implementing regulations on the number of customers allowed into stores at one time, requiring employees to complete a health check before starting their shifts, adding contactless payment methods and more.
Walmart, Bentonville, Ark., and Target, Minneapolis, are among retailers regulating store entry. Walmart is allowing no more than five customers for each 1,000- square- feet at any given time—that’s approximately 20% of the store’s capacity.
To facilitate this process, associates mark a queue at a single-entry door and admit customers one by one. Once capacity is reached, customers will be admitted inside on a “one-out, -one-in" basis.
Walmart, as well as grocers like Hy-Vee, Inc., West Des Moines, Iowa, are also instituting one-way movement through the aisles in their stores. Over the weekend Hy-Vee placed one-way direction signage in all stores. The signage is a way to prevent customers from passing one another in an effort maintain social distancing.
Hy-Vee is also asking customers try to designate one person per family to visit the store and to avoid shopping in groups. The grocer is strongly encouraging a “one person per cart” rule.
“We continue to implement additional ways to adapt at Hy-Vee, so that we can serve our customers and protect the health and wellness of those who work and shop in our stores,” said Randy Edeker, chairman, chief executive officer and president of Hy-Vee.
Grocers like Meijer, Grand Rapids, Mich., have implemented daily health screenings for associates. Upon arrival, team members will have their temperatures taken and must complete a health assessment questionnaire. In order to work their shift, employees must pass all screening questions and not have an elevated temperature.
Team members ineligible to work due to symptoms will be encouraged to connect with their healthcare providers and those directed to stay home will be eligible for the Meijer COVID-10 Pay Continuation Program.
"As we navigate these challenging times, we will continue to look for ways to ensure our stores provide the safest shopping environment possible," said Rick Keyes, president and CEO of Meijer. "Nothing is more important than keeping our team members and customers safe."
Other retailers are offering contactless pay options. Completed on April 4, all Publix, Lakeland, Fla., stores were equipped with the ability to accept contactless pay through Apply Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay.
With contactless payment customers can place their smartphone or contactless-pay enabled credit or debit card near the contactless-enable device instead of swiping or inserting their card into a PIN pad.
“In these unprecedented times, we recognized the need to make our customers’ trips to our stores faster and more efficient,” said Todd Jones, CEO of Publix. “By expediting this payment option, we will help customers reduce contact with commonly used surfaces like PIN pads.”
With associates working in unprecedented conditions, retailers are closing stores on Easter Sunday and giving employees the day off to spend at home with their families. Trader Joe’s, Monrovia, Calif.; Sprout’s Farmers Market, Phoenix, Ariz.; and Southeastern Grocers, Jacksonville, Fla., are among retailers closing shop for the holiday.