- Beginning Thursday, Stop & Shop will hold special early-morning shopping hours exclusively for customers over the age of 60, the company announced in a press release.
- The dedicated shopping period for seniors, which will last daily from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., follows Stop & Shop's decision last week to reduce store hours. The chain's stores are now open to all shoppers from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. The retailer said it will not check identification at the door to verify ages during its senior shopping period but hopes that people will be respectful and "do the right thing for our older neighbors." It added that store associates reserve the right to ask customers to leave if they are not part of this age group.
- The grocer said holding shopping hours exclusively for seniors allows for social distancing. Government officials have said that those over the age of 60 and those with compromised immune systems are more vulnerable to COVID-19.
As awareness of COVID-19 and the elevated threat it poses to elderly individuals grows, U.S. retailers have enacted dedicated senior shopping times similar to Stop & Shop's. The initiatives highlight what could become a growing trend in the U.S., but they also call into question how — and if — companies will enforce the new measures.
Dollar General announced Monday it is "strongly encouraging" shoppers to give senior customers exclusive access to its stores during the first hour they open. The retailer appeared to be appealing to its shoppers to self-enforce the initiative.
"We appreciate our customers' understanding of our decision and request they visit our stores later in the morning to allow at-risk populations the ability to purchase the items they need at affordable prices," Todd Vasos, CEO of Dollar General, said in a statement.
On the other end of the scale, Food Town stores in Houston will require photo identification from customers to prove they are 65 or older.
Northgate Gonzalez Market is also implementing an early-morning senior shopping hour at its Southern California stores, as have various independent operators and, according to Newsweek, at least some Walmart locations.
Retailers abroad are also reserving hours for seniors. In Australia, Coles Supermarket will hold “community hours” beginning Wednesday that will give elderly and disadvantaged shoppers access to the store before others people. Competing chain Woolworths announced it will hold special early hours for senior and disabled shoppers starting Tuesday.
Iceland Foods, a popular British supermarket chain, is also hosting special hours for senior and disabled shoppers. Danny Burke, a manager at an Iceland Foods location in Northern Ireland, told Today that the stores are always at their cleanest in the mornings. This will give elderly customers a more sanitized environment to shop in before stores open to the general public.
Other companies aren't sold on the move, however, including H-E-B, which operates more than 300 stores in Texas.
"Our leadership team studied this option thoroughly and due to recommendations from health officials we have determined this is not the best and safest option for our customers," the company said in a statement to CNN. "H-E-B takes care of Texas and we feel asking a group to congregate at our stores in a certain timeframe is not a safe idea."
Last week, grocery chains across the U.S. scaled back their hours in order to give stores a deeper clean at the end of the day and restock shelves left bare by panic purchasers.