The Kroger Co. reported Sunday that two grocery store associates from its King Soopers and Fred Meyer chains have been diagnosed with novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
In addition, Kroger and other grocery retailers — including Walmart, Publix, H-E-B and Schnuck Markets, among others — announced they’re curtailing store operating hours to give employees extra time for cleaning and restocking in response to the coronavirus crisis.
“We want to share that we have been informed by public health officials that a King Soopers associate in Colorado and a Fred Meyer associate in Washington have tested positive for COVID-19. Both associates are receiving medical care and are recovering. We are supporting them and wish them all the best in their recovery,” Kroger Chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen said in a March 14 memo to employees.
“Upon learning of these cases, we partnered with state and local health experts, followed all sanitation and cleaning procedures, communicated with and supported our store teams, and with the support of the state governments, the stores remain open,” he said. “We will continue to follow guidance from local, state and federal agencies, including the CDC and other health organizations.”
Also in the memo, McMullen announced that Kroger has enacted an emergency leave guidelines policy. With the move, employees will receive paid time off if diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed under mandatory quarantine by a medical provider or a public health authority because of the virus. “All eligible associates will receive their standard pay for up to two weeks (14 days),” he said.
Meanwhile, Kroger has begun adjusting store hours based on local market conditions. For example, in Houston, supermarkets under the Kroger banner on Saturday shifted to 7 a.m. openings and 10 p.m. closings. Modified hours also went into effect in more than 20 other Kroger banner markets, as well as at The Kroger Co.’s Copps, City Markets, Fry’s, Food 4 Less, Foods Co., Harris Teeter, Jay-C, King Soopers, Metro Market, Owens Market, Pay-Less, Pick ‘N Save, QFC, Ralphs and Smith’s chains.
Other grocery retailers adjusting store hours include the following:
Publix Super Markets: Stores and pharmacies now close at 8 p.m. The change went into effect March 14 “to better serve our customers, give our store teams time to conduct additional preventive sanitation and restock product on shelves,” the Southeastern grocer said.
H-E-B: As of March 15, all H-E-B stores — including Central Market, Joe V’s and Mi Tienda locations — began opening at 8 a.m. and closing at 8 p.m.
“While we restock our shelves around the clock, much of our restocking and replenishment happens overnight when our stores are closed. This temporary change in store hours will give our partners extra time to work diligently overnight to better stock our shelves. Limiting store hours and product purchases is a proven way to ensure the best service and product availability for all customers,” H-E-B stated. “As we adapt to serve our communities, our customers will also see reduced services in our delis, bakeries and floral departments. These temporary changes in the way we run our stores will allow us to get customers the products they need. Customers will not be charged for canceled orders due to department closures. We will return to our regular hours and full services as soon as we can.”
Walmart: Walmart and Walmart Neighborhood Market locations moved to 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. hours starting on March 15. “This will help ensure associates are able to stock the products our customers are looking for and to perform cleaning and sanitizing. Stores currently operating under more reduced hours (for example, they regularly close at 10 p.m. or open at 7 a.m.) will keep their current hours of operation,” Dacona Smith, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Walmart U.S., said in a statement.
“As we make this change, associates will continue to work the hours and shifts they are scheduled, and our supply chain and trucking fleet will continue to move products and deliver to stores on their regular schedules,” Smith said. “As a reminder, we have a temporary COVID-19 emergency leave policy to support associates at this unprecedented time.”
Schnuck Markets: On Sunday, St. Louis-based Schnucks said all 24-hour locations would begin closing at midnight and other locations at 10 p.m. Then on Monday, the grocer reported that “significant increases in customer traffic” led the company to move all stores to 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily operating hours except for four locations.
The Culinaria store in downtown St. Louis will now be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday and closed on the weekend. Also, the Shrewsbury and Lemay stores in St. Louis and Oakwood store in Alton, Ill., will close on March 16 at 10 p.m. and are tentatively set to reopen on March 19 at 6 a.m. “These three locations are in close proximity to other Schnucks locations, and this change in hours will allow us to shift the nearly 200 teammates from these stores into other Schnucks locations. Shifting these teammates enables us to redeploy our workforce in a way that will ensure that teammates across our stores who have been working additional hours are able to get some time off to rest. It will also allow us to provide additional in-store support for the increased customer demand we are seeing,” Schnucks stated.
“We continue to coordinate with our supply partners and warehouse teams around the clock, to ensure that as soon as we receive product, it is delivered to our stores and available to our customers as quickly as possible,” the company added.
Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage: The better-for-you grocery chain, based in Lakewood, Colo., shifted to 7:35 p.m. closings at all of its 157 stores as of March 14 to provide its crews additional time for cleaning and restocking. “All stores will open at their normal posted times,” Natural Grocers’ founding Isely family stated. “These new closing hours will remain in effect until further notice.”
Stater Bros.: The Southern California supermarket chain said all 169 Stater Bros. Markets adjusted store hours to 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. effective March 15. The company said the reduced hours will give it more time to thoroughly clean its stores, restock merchandise and provide a “safe and healthy shopping experience for its customers and employees.”
“To ensure product availability for all of its customers, there are limits on high-demand items,” Stater Bros. CEO Pete Van Helden said in a statement. “The company is working around the clock to get product to our stores as quickly as it becomes available. Be assured that all of our merchandise is being sold at its everyday price. For nearly 84 years, we’ve worked hard ensure the needs of our local communities are met, and as long as the shopping experience remains safe, our stores will remain open. We’re in this together to keep our community safe.”
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