Grocers Encourage Social Distancing With One-Way Aisles

Meanwhile, many grocery stores and big box retailers will close for Easter to let employees rest.

April 07, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—During the current pandemic, some retailers are enforcing social distancing by making their aisles one-way, according to

Over the weekend, Hy-Vee, the Midwest grocer with 245 locations, began asking shoppers to move in a single direction in its stores, while Walmart will take similar actions this week. Safeway stores in the San Francisco area have requested that customers go only one way through the store and stay two shopping-cart lengths apart from other people.

Late last week, Connecticut mandated that all stores make their aisles one-way "where practicable” and to install signs or floor markings to direct customers in the proper direction. The requirement is part of the state’s “Essential Safe Store Rules,” which were developed by the office of the governor and the Connecticut Department of Emergency Management.

Despite implementing many safeguards, retailers find they must add increasingly stringent measures to ensure shoppers maintain proper social distancing. Walmart decided to institute additional safety measures because customers were still getting too close to one another, despite in-store floor markings and signage reminding shoppers to keep a safe distance from each other.

"While many of our customers have been following the advice of the medical community regarding social distancing and safety, we have been concerned to still see some behaviors in our stores that put undue risk on our people," said Dacona Smith, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Walmart U.S.

On Saturday, Walmart began limiting the number of shoppers it allows in stores at one time to five people per 1,000 square feet, which is about 20% of capacity. Shoppers are being counted, allowed in one at a time and are reminded to follow social distancing guidelines, Smith said.

Beginning today, Kroger will begin limiting the number of customers in each store to 50% of the International Building Code’s calculated capacity to allow for proper physical distancing, reports Chain Store Age

Supermarkets are accelerating their efforts to lower the risk that people will catch the virus even as federal officials ask people to avoid all outings over the coming days as the intensity of the outbreak increases nationwide.

Many stores now allow workers to wear masks and gloves on the job. Safeway stores in California are requiring employees to wash their hands every hour, and some retailers have established certain shopping hours exclusively for seniors and at-risk individuals. In addition, many grocers have installed shields at checkouts and other locations where workers and shoppers come into close contact

Another result of the coronavirus pandemic, is that consumers can expect to see more retailers closed for Easter this year than in the past, reports USA Today.  

In addition to the many companies that have temporarily closed their doors due to COVID-19, some grocery stores that have traditionally been open on Easter will close this year to give employees a day off. Others have reduced hours to give staffers time to restock shelves and clean the facility, while special shopping hours for seniors and those most vulnerable to the virus have reduced hours even more.

Giant Eagle, Trader Joe's, Sprouts Farmers Market, BJ's Wholesale Club and Southeastern Grocers (BI-LO, Fresco y Más, Harveys Supermarket and Winn-Dixie) are among the retailers who have announced they will be closed on Sunday, April 12.

Giant Eagle said yesterday that all of its Giant Eagle, Market District and GetGo stores will be closed on Easter Sunday “to allow our valued Team Members to celebrate the holiday with their families and enjoy a well-deserved day of rest.”

Trader Joe's website advises shoppers to fill "your Trader Joe's baskets with Easter fare early" because stores will be closed "to give our incredible Crew Members a much-needed day of rest." And BJ's Wholesale Club, which has 218 locations, said in a statement that all clubs will be closed "to give team members a day to rest and recharge."

Stores traditionally closed on Easter include Costco, Sam's Club and Target. Most malls and department stores have already closed due to COVID-19, while home improvement stores have stayed open, along with gas stations, convenience stores and drugstores. At this time, not all major retailers have announced Easter plans for 2020.

Coronavirus Resources

NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.