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Whole Foods-riots-GettyImages-1216821532.jpg ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images
People continue shopping at a Whole Foods Market store in Brooklyn, N.Y., which is boarded up after a night of protest over the death of George Floyd.

Grocery retailers feel impact as nationwide protests escalate

Chains of all sizes cite store closings, vandalism and looting

Just like the rest of the nation, grocery retailers are watching and waiting as the strife from protests over the death of George Floyd is exploding in cities coast to coast.

Through the weekend, protests were ongoing in more than 30 cities, with curfews imposed in most of them, according to published reports. More than 60,000 National Guard troops have been activated in at least two dozen states and the District of Columbia.

Food retailers of all stripes and in all geographies — ranging from Target and Walmart to Cub Foods and Coborn’s to Stop & Shop and ShopRite — have been affected, whether by forced closings and/or damaged stores or looting, vandalism and curtailed hours.

Because of its home base in Minneapolis, where the killing of Floyd — an unarmed black man — at the hands of police occurred, Target has perhaps stood out more than other retailers during media coverage of the protests and urban discord — especially through images of the destruction and looting of its store on Lake Street in the city’s Longfellow neighborhood.

On its website, Target now lists six locations closed until further notice, including the Lake Street store plus its uptown Minneapolis; Broadway Oakland, Calif.; Buckhead South Atlanta, Ga.; South Loop Chicago; and Washington Square W Philadelphia stores.

On Thursday night, Target said it was temporarily closing 24 stores in the Twin Cities area. As of Friday morning, all but six of those stores had reopened. However, as the protests continued, by Friday afternoon Target again closed at least 20 more stores.

“The safety of our team and guests is our top priority. At this time, we are making the decision to adjust store hours or close stores temporarily. We recognize the important role we play in helping our communities shop for the food, medicine and other essentials they need. We apologize for the inconvenience and will reopen our stores on their normally scheduled hours as soon as it is safe to do so,” Target said in a statement on Sunday.

“We’re providing community support and prioritizing the rebuilding of our Lake Street store, which is near where George Floyd was killed. We have teams working to provide basic first aid supplies, water and essentials through partnerships with local nonprofits,” the company said. “We appreciate members of the community and our team who have assisted in cleaning in and around that location. We are now boarding the store up until we can survey the location and begin recovery efforts.”

JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty ImagesTarget-riots-GettyImages-1216239900.jpg

Looters ransacked and robbed this Target store in Oakland, Calif., on May 29.

Target will prioritize the rebuilding and reopening of its store located at 2500 E. Lake Street, preserving approximately 200 local jobs.

The rebuilding timetable for the store is still being determined, but Target said it’s aiming for a late 2020 reopening. The retailer also plans to reopen other damaged stores in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area in the coming weeks. Employees impacted by store closing will be paid for up to 14 days of scheduled hours, including COVID-19 premium pay, while those locations are shut, and they also will be able to work at nearby Target locations, according to the company. 

“We are a community in pain. That pain is not unique to the Twin Cities — it extends across America,” Target Chairman and CEO Brian Cornell said in a statement.

“Our store and HR teams are working with all of our displaced team members, including the more than 200 team members from our Lake Street store in Minneapolis. We will make sure they have their full pay and benefits in the coming weeks, as well as access to other resources and opportunities within Target,” he explained. “We’ll continue to invest in this vibrant crossroads of the Seward, Longfellow, Phillips and Powderhorn communities [in Minneapolis], preserving jobs and economic opportunity by rebuilding and bringing back the store that has served as a community resource since 1976. In any of our other locations that are damaged or at risk, the safety and well-being of our team, guests and the surrounding community will continue to be our paramount priority.

“It’s hard to see now, but the day will come for healing,” Cornell added.

Here are updates from grocery retailers around the country responding to the impact of the protests so far:

CUB FOODS: Mike Stigers, CEO of Cub Foods, which is owned by United Natural Foods Inc., reported that several Cub stores have been affected by protests in Minneapolis and Saint Paul throughout the past week.

“Currently, two of our Cub locations remain closed while we evaluate our rebuilding efforts and work to provide employment opportunities at other stores in the area to all our team members affected by these events,” Stigers said in an emailed statement. “Despite these closures, we are working on creative solutions to take care of our neighbors, in addition to having other Cub stores in the area provide food and grocery items, where safely possible, through our online home delivery service. We take pride in serving not only the Twin Cities community, but also communities across Minnesota, and will not waiver from the essential role we play in serving our customers and communities every day.”

COBORN’S: St. Cloud, Minn.-based Coborn’s closed and has since reopened a number of stores due to the protested. Communities with closed locations include the St. Cloud area (closed early Friday, May 29); the Fargo (N.D.)/Moorhead (Minn.) area (closed early Saturday, May 30); and the Minneapolis/St. Paul area (some stores closed early on May 30 and on Sunday May 31).

“Out of an abundance of caution for the safety of our guests and employees, we made the decision to close several of the stores in our local communities throughout the weekend,” Coborn’s said in a statement. “We were able to reopen all locations at normal business hours the following day.”

SCHNUCKS: St. Louis-based Schnuck Markets reported overnight break-ins at its Culinaria store in downtown St. Louis (315 North 9th St.) and at its City Plaza store in north St. Louis (3431 Union Blvd.). Both locations opened on Tuesday.

“Both stores were closed at the time of the break-ins,” Paul Simon, spokesman for Schnucks, said in an email. “Though multiple items were stolen and both buildings sustained damage, we are grateful that no teammates were injured. We continue to remain committed to providing a safe environment for our customers and teammates, and continue to pray for justice, equity and peace for our communities.”

KROGER: The Kroger Co. said “a few” stores have sustained damaged amid the protests, and some locations have been closed early. The Cincinnati-based company, the nation’s largest supermarket operator, didn’t specify how many stores were affected or their locations.

“For months, the pandemic has demanded our collective energy as we work together to keep our families safe and adjust to new ways of working and living. However, as the events of this past week have reminded us, COVID-19 is but one of the many challenges confronting our communities today,” a Kroger spokesperson said. “We have teams monitoring the situation across the country, and we are taking precautions to keep our associates and customers safe, which includes closing some store locations early. We have experienced property damage at a few stores, but we remain focused on bringing Americans together, as an employer, grocery provider and community partner.”

Michael B. Thomas/Getty ImagesSchnucks-riots-GettyImages-1216932398.jpg

A woman walks by a Schnucks Market that sustained damage after protests on June 2 in St Louis.

HY-VEE: West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee, with stores in eight Midwestern states, said it hasn’t had to shut stores because of the protests.

“We did have some broken glass and looting at our Fourth + Court Hy-Vee in downtown Des Moines late Saturday night,” spokeswoman Christina Gayman said in an email. “We reopened Sunday while repairs were being made. We have also altered the closing time of some of our stores, based on government curfews and proximity to increased protest activity for the safety of our employees and customers. But we have not closed any stores.”

STOP & SHOP: Because of protests in the area, some Stop & Shop supermarkets have experienced temporary closings, according to Jennifer Brogan, a spokeswoman for the Quincy, Mass.-based chain, part of Ahold Delhaize USA. One New York City store was slightly vandalized.

“Stop & Shop is incredibly saddened by the death of George Floyd, and we understand the profound impact this has had on our communities,” Brogan said in an emailed statement. “The brand has intermittently closed a small handful of stores as a result of protests taking place nearby. Only minimal damage has occurred in the form of graffiti spray-painted on the exterior of one of our stores in Brooklyn, N.Y.”

PUBLIX: Southeast grocer Publix Supermarkets reported early closings of some stores to comply with local curfews.

“Due to curfews in some of our operating areas, some stores may close early to allow our associates and customers to return home safely,” spokeswoman Maria Brous said in an email Monday evening. “Stores that closed early yesterday opened this morning at their normal operating time, and the same is expected for tomorrow.”

LIDL: Arlington, Va.-base Lidl US, which has most of its 100 stores in the Mid-Atlantic region, said that protests in some communities led the company to temporarily shut stores as a precaution.

“For millions of Americans, the footage of George Floyd dying on the street in Minneapolis last week symbolized a scarcity of fairness and justice, and that sentiment extended well beyond the video itself,” Lidl US CEO Johannes Fieber said in a letter to employees on Monday. “The protests that resulted criss-crossed the country, including Lidl communities. We made a decision to close several stores temporarily to assure our team’s safety. Thankfully, the demonstrations around our stores have been peaceful and no Lidl team members have been injured. We will continue to closely monitor the situation and will always put your safety first.

RALEY’S: West Sacramento, Calif.-base grocery chain Raley’s, which has the vast majority of its stores in California, said one store has sustained damage in connection with the protests.

“We have had one store broken into, with limited items stolen. This was in Sacramento, Calif.,” spokeswoman Chelsea Minor said in an email. “The store was closed at the time of the break-in and opened the next morning.”

MEIJER: Supercenter retailer Meijer, based in Grand Rapids, Mich., reported no store closures due to the protests.

“We have not closed any of our stores. However, some stores shortened their hours yesterday, mostly due to local curfews,” according to an email from spokesman Frank Guglielmi. “Our hours will adjust for local curfews as necessary.”

THE GIANT COMPANY: Carlisle, Pa.-based The Giant Company, which operates supermarkets under the Giant and Martin's banners, hasn't had to shut any stores or sustained any damage due to the demonstrations, according to Ashley Flower, a spokeswoman for the Ahold Delhaize USA chain.

"In some stores in the greater Philly area, over the past few days, we have closed early due to curfews from local authorities, but we have been open each and every day at all locations," Flower stated in an email late Tuesday. "We are monitoring the situation very closely and heeding the guidance of local authorities to ensure the safety of our team members and customers."

WHOLE FOODS: Whole Foods Market didn’t immediately respond to Supermarket News’ request for comment on the impact of the protests. However, CNBC reported that Amazon-owned Whole Foods has closed some stores temporarily and adjusted hours at others, including locations near Minneapolis, Chicago and Los Angeles.

A spokesperson for the chain also told CNBC that its store across from Manhattan’s Bryant Park store has suspended online delivery orders, and all impacted Whole Foods locations will close well before local curfews start so store associates can safely return home. 

WALMART: Walmart didn’t immediately respond to SN’s request for information on any stores impacted by the nationwide demonstrations. But the retail giant on Sunday confirmed to CNBC that it would close hundreds of stores around the country.

Walmart store closings included locations in Minneapolis and Atlanta on Friday, and more closures ensued as the protests erupted nationally, CNBC reported, adding that stores not sustaining damage and deemed safe would be reopened. The company also aims to help employees displaced by store closings.

“Many of you are paying attention to what took place earlier this week in Minneapolis and New York. These events are heartbreaking. There are too many of them, and each one is unacceptable,” Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon wrote in a message to employees on Friday.

Walmart will “focus on prioritizing the safety of our associates and customers,” McMillon added. “What our country experienced this week yet again reminds us of the need for us to support each other and to come together. Until we, as a nation, confront and address these hard realities, we will never achieve the best of what we can be.”

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