Should grocers close their doors to customers for safety’s sake?
It is critical that grocery stores remain open during the coronavirus pandemic. The fact that they draw crowds, however, also makes them a significant point of potential transmission for the novel coronavirus, putting customers and especially staff at risk. This has led some to suggest that it is time for all grocers to close their store doors to customers.
Citing the deaths of dozens of people working in grocery stores from COVID-19, medical experts, union leaders and small grocers have begun to argue that the safest policy is keeping customers out of the stores entirely, according to CNN. Mark Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, said that 85 percent of customers are still failing to social distance within stores. Mr. Perrone pointed to careless customers as the biggest threat to the health of grocery store workers.
The coronavirus pandemic took a horrifying turn in the U.S. in late March and early April when reports of workers succumbing to COVID-19 began to hit the news.
Turning all grocers into “dark stores” with curbside pickup and delivery as the only shopping options would drastically reduce the number of people coming into contact with one another during shopping trips but, importantly, would prevent store staff from having to encounter countless customers over the duration of their shifts.
Such a move could also increase the speed and efficiency with which shoppers for third-party delivery companies pick groceries, allowing them to get in and out of stores more quickly.
Grocery stores have already taken steps to reduce the number of customers in-store at any given time to prevent the spread of coronavirus and to improve BOPIS efficiency.
Last month, for instance, a Kroger store in Cincinnati converted to pick-up only to better meet the surging online order demand. This month, Amazon.com closed its Bryant Park Whole Foods location in Manhattan to public foot traffic to allow the store to focus entirely on online orders. Other large Manhattan Whole Foods locations, however, remain open to the public.
Other chains have taken the opposite approach. Cub Foods announced it would keep 11 stores in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area open 24 hours a day, a move that could relieve crowding.
- Experts say it may be time for grocery stores to ban customers from coming inside because of Covid-19 – CNN
- Is Kroger’s pick-up only store a solution for grocers now and in the future? – RetailWire
- Amazon puts new online grocery customers on hold, reconfigures Whole Foods – RetailWire
- Of all times, why is Cub Foods now running stores around the clock? – RetailWire
- Fear, heroism and wrongful death lawsuits in the age of coronavirus – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think more supermarkets will convert to pickup and delivery-only operations in an effort to protect associates and customers? Is it possible for grocery stores to operate like this at scale and how might they mitigate any negative effects of closing stores to customers?