Whole Foods Market is now holding a spot in line for seniors and others vulnerable to coronavirus who place online grocery pickup orders.
Whole Foods said yesterday that it will now reserve the first hour of grocery pickup at stores nationwide for customers age 60 and older as well as those with disabilities and whom the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classifies as high-risk for the virus.
To make a click-and-collect order for this time slot, customers go to amazon.com/wholefoods, choose “Pickup” and start filling their virtual cart. When done shopping and ready to check out, they can select the first pickup window of the day, which is marked as reserved for at-risk customers.
Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods said the new pickup feature is now available at more than 150 stores. As of mid-March, all Whole Foods stores in the United States and Canada have designated the first hour of operation for shopping by older and high-risk customers.
“Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, we have seen an unprecedented demand for grocery delivery and pickup within the communities we serve,” Whole Foods stated. “In response, Amazon and Whole Foods Market have worked continuously to increase capacity and serve as many customers as possible.”
Earlier this month, Stephenie Landry, vice president of grocery at Whole Foods parent company Amazon, said in a blog post that online grocery order capacity has been expanded by over 60% to help meet skyrocketing demand. She reported that pickup service has been extended from about 80 stores to more than 150 in recent weeks, and the expansion will continue over the coming weeks. Landry said Whole Foods also aims to modify store hours for some locations to focus exclusively on online grocery orders.
Online grocery activity has surged across the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic. E-grocery sales — including both pickup and delivery — climbed to a new 30-day record for April, reaching $5.3 billion and marking a 37% gain from March, according to the latest Brick Meets Click and Symphony RetailAI Online Grocery Survey. The month-over-month sales increase reflects 33% growth in the monthly number of online orders, from 46.9 million to 62.5 million, as well as a 3% gain in order size, from $82 to $85, the study said.
In other news, Amazon on Thursday announced it will start requesting that customers wear face masks when shopping in Whole Foods stores.
The company said that, within the next week, it will make free, disposable masks available at all stores. If shoppers don't already have a face covering upon walking into a Whole Foods store, they will be able to pick up one at the entrance. The chain has 487 U.S. stores.
Earlier this week, Amazon said it has provided more than 100 million face masks to its global operations network and Whole Foods stores. The masks are available to all Amazon associates, delivery service partners, Amazon Flex participants, seasonal employees, and Whole Foods employees.
“We have enough mask inventory to cover our entire operations and stores network, and we are requiring everyone working in our facilities to take and use them,” Amazon stated.
The Seattle-based e-tail giant said it expects to spend over $800 million in the first half of the year on COVID-19 safety measures. Those include purchases of items like masks, hand sanitizer, thermal cameras, thermometers, sanitizing wipes, gloves and more hand-washing stations, as well as the addition of disinfectant spraying in buildings and more janitorial teams and the procurement of COVID-19 testing supplies.
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