- Wegmans announced Tuesday it will avoid grand-opening events this year and instead offer a “targeted timeframe” for new stores to open for business.
- The company confirmed it will open three previously announced locations this year — in Westchester County, New York; West Cary, North Carolina; and Tysons Corner, Virginia. It postponed the opening of the Westchester County location, originally slated to open June 7, after the coronavirus hit in late March. The retailer previously planned to open its West Cary location on Aug. 7 and its Tysons Corner store sometime in the fall.
- “As we keep the safety of our employees and customers a top priority, we’ve had to rethink how we open these stores,” the company said in a press release. “While we love the excitement of opening morning, with customers anxiously awaiting to see their new Wegmans, we know this isn’t possible as the need to maintain social distancing remains.”
Wegmans grand openings are known to draw shoppers in droves from miles around. When the chain opened its first North Carolina store last fall, 3,000 people lined up for the 7 a.m. opening, and 30,000 ultimately made their way to the store over the course of the day.
Many shoppers are avoiding large gatherings, but the allure of a Wegmans opening still promises to draw a crowd. By listing a timeframe for opening rather than a specific date, Wegmans stores can open quietly and serve a gradual build-up of customers rather than an early morning surge. The strategy also gives the grocer wiggle room in case of virus flare-ups, construction delays and other events.
Westchester County, New York, where the company initially planned to open its first new store of 2020, has been hit hard by COVID-19, with more than 33,000 positive cases so far listed by the New York State Department of Health. Wegmans said in March it would continue recruiting 500 or so workers for the 121,000-square-foot store, and according to local news reports the grocer plans to open the store sometime this fall.
Across the country, grocers are continuing to roll out new stores, but they’re taking the “grand” out of their grand openings. Raley's avoided giveaways and special promotions when it opened a store in Sacramento last month. “We are really only encouraging people to come if they really need to get those essential items,” a company spokesman told a local news outlet at the time.
When Lidl opens its hundredth store on Wednesday in Suwanee, Georgia, it will forego a ribbon-cutting ceremony in favor of a soft opening.
States are gradually lifting pandemic-related restrictions and retailers of all types are bringing stores back online. Grocers are easing store capacity limits and business hours, but they’re also standing firm on key safety measures, including requiring protective gear for workers, regularly cleaning stores and asking customers to maintain social distancing.