Just as the tragedy on September 11, 2001 forever changed the way we pass through airport security and board a plane, the COVID-19 pandemic is bound to alter our shopping habits as consumers. This is especially true during the height of the pandemic, when many states have closed all but essential operations and consumers are flooding grocery stores from open to close.
Walmart, Kroger, Costco, Publix, and other retailers are responding by taking creative measures to enforce social distancing and keep customers and workers safe.
Major grocery store chains are tackling the spread of COVID-19 at its source by installing plexiglass barriers at registers. These “sneeze guards” are meant to stop the spread of the virus by blocking the transmissions of sneezes and coughs from employer to employee.
Kroger was one of the first grocery chains to implement the idea of temporary plexiglass barriers. Since the middle of March, Kroger has been working to install these partitions at all cash registers, including pharmacy counters and Starbucks registers.
Walmart followed suit, explaining in a press release on March 24 that plexiglass barriers would be installed at all registers by early- to mid-April. “Staying safe and healthy is more important than ever for our associates, our customers and for us. Installing these barriers is another way Walmart is helping bring peace of mind that we are doing everything we can to keep our people and our stores safe.”
Grocery stores are also using floor space to help customers maintain six feet of space from each other. Easy-to-install floor decals have been designed for stores like Walmart and Publix to place at entrances and checkout lanes. As Walmart stated in its press release, this makes it “easier for customers to judge the proper social distance from each other.”
Albertsons plans to take floor markers a step further by installing designated waiting points throughout the store, especially in high-traffic areas like the pharmacy, bakery, and deli sections. Vivek Sankaran, president and CEO of Albertsons brands, elaborated on this: “We have seen our customers begin to implement social distancing on their own with our ‘two carts apart’ reminders as they shop our stores so we think our floor markers will increase awareness.”
Trader Joe’s is famous for its large, chaotic shopping crowds. Normally, this makes for entertaining anecdotes and funny social media posts, but in the world of COVID-19, it only adds up to increased danger.
In response, Trader Joe’s and other grocery stores with overcrowding issues are restricting the number of customers allowed inside at a time. A sign on a Trader Joe’s window in Seattle, Washington reads, “In an effort to promote social distancing within the store, we’re limiting the number of shoppers at any given time. Thanks for your patience and understanding!”
Some stores limit the number of customers to 30, while others allow up to 50. Despite these regulations, shoppers aren’t deterred. Lines form around the corner as customers wait patiently to grab their groceries within the guidelines of our new social distancing culture.