- Supermarkets are beginning to edge away from changes they implemented at the start of the pandemic, including one-way aisle requirements and curtailed store hours, according to media reports.
- Wegmans stores have stopped using separate entrances and exits for shoppers but are maintaining other social-distancing measures, a spokesperson told the Patriot News. Karns Supermarkets, a nine-store chain in Pennsylvania, has removed stickers that had guided shoppers down aisles in one direction, although signage designed to keep people apart will remain, according to the paper. The Giant Company has also discontinued its one-way aisles
- The Wegmans cafe in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, will reopen at half of its normal capacity on June 12, the Patriot News reported. Meanwhile, the Wegmans store in Ocean, New Jersey, is set to resume its normal midnight closing time on June 14, according to a store employee.
Supermarkets were quick to impose operational restrictions as the pandemic picked up steam, but they are edging away from those changes much more cautiously.
Numerous chains in addition to Karns and Wegmans have started keeping their stores open longer as the communities they serve move away from stay-at-home orders and other requirements that were imposed by authorities to curb the spread of the virus.
On June 8, H-E-B expanded operating hours and will keep most locations open until 11 p.m. In mid-May, Publix started keeping stores open longer and dropped the reserved times it had been dedicating to senior shoppers, WRAL-TV reported.
As consumers venture out of their homes and businesses reopen, grocers are facing pressure to relax the safety measures that have altered the shopping experience for millions of customers. Last week, H-E-B dropped the face mask requirement it had established in April for its stores. But COVID-19 cases remain high and hospitalizations are spiking in some states, leading most retailers to maintain their core safety steps and remind shoppers to practice proper social distancing.
Grocers are also determining which safety measures are most effective. The Giant Company, for example, said it dropped its one-way aisle policy because customers told the chain it was keeping them inside stores for too long. As Grocery Dive reported in April, many shoppers are also flouting these one-way aisle policies, which retailers implemented to keep customers from squeezing past one another while shopping.
Wegmans is making changes as it searches for ways to return to the high-touch operating model that has helped it build a high level of customer loyalty over the years, company officials recently told The Wall Street Journal.
“A huge part of our business has been treating our customers really as guests and entertaining them. We can’t do that anymore,” Chairman Danny Wegman told the newspaper. “We lost our mojo. We have to replace it.”
Other grocers have not yet said when adjustments they have made in response to the pandemic might be relaxed. For example, Schnucks, which runs more than 100 stores in five states across the Midwest, is maintaining all changes it made because of the virus, including reduced hours, a spokesman told Grocery Dive. Schnucks stores that shortened their hours further in response to the recent protests stemming from the death of George Floyd dropped those restrictions on Tuesday, the spokesman said.