A growing number of food retailers are making their aisles one-way as grocers step up efforts to keep the coronavirus from spreading in their stores, according to company announcements and news reports.
Hy-Vee began asking shoppers to move in a single direction in its stores over the weekend, while Walmart will be taking a similar step this week. Safeway stores in the San Francisco area are asking customers to go in one direction in their aisles and stay the equivalent of two carts away from others, KGO-TV reported. Kroger is planning to test one-way aisles in at least one store, but hasn’t said where it will conduct those tests, a spokeswoman told Grocery Dive.
On Friday, Connecticut implemented rules that require stores to make their aisles one-way "where practicable” and to install signs or floor markings that make clear to customers the direction in which they should move. The state's “Essential Safe Store Rules” grew out of an effort developed by the Connecticut Food Association in cooperation with the office of Gov. Ned Lamont and the state’s Department of Emergency Management, the association’s president, Wayne Pesce, told Grocery Dive in an email.
Despite having implemented various safeguards, retailers are finding they must add increasingly stringent measures to ensure shoppers maintain proper social distancing.
Walmart, which is implementing one-way aisles and limiting the number of customers inside stores at a time, said it decided to institute additional safety measures because customers were still getting too close to one another even after it had implemented safeguards like floor markings and signage reminding shoppers to keep a safe distance from one another and employees.
"While many of our customers have been following the advice of the medical community regarding social distancing and safety, we have been concerned to still see some behaviors in our stores that put undue risk on our people," Dacona Smith, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Walmart U.S., said in a statement.
On Saturday, Walmart began limiting the number of shoppers it allows in stores at one time to five people per 1,000 square feet, which the company said equates to about 20% of capacity. Shoppers are being counted, let in one at a time and reminded to follow social distancing guidelines, Smith said.
Supermarkets are accelerating their efforts to lower the risk that people will catch the virus even as federal officials ask people to avoid all outings over the coming days as the intensity of the outbreak increases in the U.S.
“This is the moment to not be going to the grocery store, not be going to the pharmacy, but doing everything you can to keep your family and your friends safe,” Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force, said Saturday during a news conference.
Many stores are now allowing their workers to wear masks and gloves in stores. Safeway stores in California are requiring employees to wash their hands every hour, KGO-TV reported.
Grocers have also reserved hours for older people and others considered at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 to shop, limited the number of people allowed in at one time and established guidelines to promote social distancing on their premises. In addition, grocers have installed shields at checkouts, customer service counters and elsewhere where workers and shoppers come into close contact