Grocery stores adjust hours, sales restrictions in response to COVID-19
Published 12:14 am Wednesday, March 18, 2020
The general public’s response to coronavirus, or COVID-19, has prompted local grocery stores and their corporate offices to limit the amount of items that can be purchased, adjust store hours or both.
In most cases, questions about the local impact of coronavirus precautions on local stores were deferred to the respective corporate office’s public affairs departments.
Russell Saleme, vice president of sales and marketing, said store hours at Market Basket locations in Port Arthur and Mid County have not been adjusted as of Tuesday morning, citing the fluidity of developments and precautions surrounding coronavirus.
“The thing about this is just uncertainty,” Saleme said.
Market Basket has limited essential items such as toilet paper, water and bread for purchase to one per person in an effort to serve as many customers as possible. Employees also have been sanitizing around each store as much as possible, including cleaning of keypads and registers, Saleme added.
So far, Market Basket has not changed limits on how many people can shop inside a store at one time.
“We do go by fire department guidelines,” Saleme said. “We haven’t put in a limit as to how many can be in a store at one time. If it gets to that — we do that during hurricane time — we’ll implement that, but as of now.”
H-E-B locations on FM 365 and Gulfway Drive in Port Arthur have reduced their hours to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
A statement from H-E-B’s corporate office store officials have implemented limits on certain items because “we know limits will help protect the supply chain in Texas. While our customers might find our supply of some products low or temporarily out of stock, please rest assured knowing that we’re maintaining close contact with our suppliers and our partners are working around-the-clock to keep our shelves stocked.”
Limits per customer per transaction are for items such as hand sanitizer, soap, bleach, disinfectant wipes, rubbing alcohol, water, latex gloves, alcohol swabs, bath tissue, paper towels, baby wipes, diapers and certain foods.
Food demonstrations at Showtime and Cooking Connection services have been halted.
Dacona Smith, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Walmart, said all of the chain’s U.S. locations — including the Memorial Boulevard and Twin City Highway locations —adjusted operating hours to 6 a.m.-11 p.m. until further notice.
“This will help ensure associates are able to stock the products our customers are looking for and to perform cleaning and sanitizing,” Smith said. “Stores currently operating under more reduced hours (for example, they regularly close at 10 p.m. or open at 7 a.m.) will keep their current hours of operation.”
In a separate statement, Walmart says it is taking preventative measures to keep stores clean daily, including sanitation in “high-touch, high-traffic areas.”
“We have increased associate focus on cleaning and have dedicated an associate to maintain key areas throughout the day,” the statement reads. “We’ve seen increased foot traffic, so we’re sending additional cleaning supplies for use in places like the registers and on shopping carts.”
Walmart adds it will work to keep its stores stocked and prices fair. Store managers are asked to use discretion to limit sales on items that are “unusually in high demand.”
While store hours are slightly different at each Dollar General location, corporate officials have asked that each store to dedicate the first hour of each operating day to senior shoppers, and that all stores close one hour earlier than usual to allow employees to clean and re-stock store shelves and address their own health and well-being.
“Dollar General wants to provide these at-risk customers with the ability to purchase the items they need and want at the beginning of each day to avoid busier and more crowded shopping periods,” a statement from Dollar General reads. “Other customers are encouraged to plan their shopping trips around this window of time to allow the most susceptible customers in our communities the ability to shop during the first hour that stores are open.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has suggested that people 65 and older avoid being around large crowds.