- Grocers are continuing to respond to the sometimes violent protests and looting that persists in cities across the United States and has impacted the ability of food retailers to maintain operations.
- Chains such as Albertsons, Schnucks and Hy-Vee have shortened hours at certain stores as they adhere to local curfews and look to keep employees safe, according to statements the companies sent to Grocery Dive. “Because our employees live in various parts of the community [or] region where our stores operate, we want to make sure everyone is safe and able to take care of family members in the evenings,” Christina Gayman, a spokeswoman for Hy-Vee, said in an email sent to Grocery Dive.
- The protests have also impacted the ability of grocery stores to fulfill online orders. Instacart and Shipt have altered their operations at partner stores with shortened hours, the companies said. Instacart added that it has temporarily stopped service in some areas with states of emergency or curfews in effect. “Our goal is to continue to serve as an essential service for millions of customers, while also prioritizing the health and safety of the Instacart shopper community,” the company said in a statement provided to Grocery Dive.
The store closures and other actions grocers have had to take in response to the protests represent another jolt for an industry already scrambling to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Supermarkets that were beginning to resume normal operations as states relaxed restrictions imposed to stop the virus have again had to make changes to keep workers and shoppers safe.
Some stores have been damaged by looters taking advantage of the chaos, leaving service holes in communities that desperately need groceries and underscoring the close connection between food retailers and the communities they serve.
“We love our customers in the Russell neighborhood and know they will continue to support our store team through this incident. We have already seen many neighbors come out this morning to assist with cleanup efforts that will aide us to reopen as quickly as possible,” Kroger said in a statement issued in response to the looting on Tuesday morning of a Louisville, Kentucky store, according to WLKY-TV. The store was set to reopen today with limited hours, the TV station reported.
Leaders at Albertsons have responded to the latest crisis by emphasizing to employees that the chain is committed to stamping out racism and promoting understanding among its diverse workforce.
“The events of recent days are a harsh reminder that we as a country and as a company have to do more. Let us begin today by stepping up to support our colleagues who feel the pain of this crisis, especially our African American colleagues,” Albertsons CEO Vivek Sankaran said in a letter to associates that was shared with Grocery Dive.
Instacart also emphasized that it is concerned about racial tensions. “First and foremost, we are deeply saddened by the ongoing series of disturbing and tragic events related to violence and injustice towards the black community. We stand in solidarity with the black community and with peaceful protests calling for racial equality,” the e-commerce provider said in a statement.
Johannes Fieber, president and CEO of Lidl’s U.S. unit, which has temporarily closed several stores because of the protests, expressed a similar sentiment. “A central human need is also a sense of fairness and justice in our cities, in our workplaces, and in our communities. For millions of Americans, the footage of George Floyd dying on the street in Minneapolis last week symbolized a scarcity of fairness and justice, and that sentiment extended well beyond the video itself,” Fieber said in a message posted on LinkedIn.
Krishna Thakker and Jeff Wells contributed reporting to this story.