KANSAS CITY, MO. – Grocery retailers have strengthened precautions in stores to keep consumers and employees safe as the coronavirus health emergency escalates in the United States. More stores are implementing regulations on the number of customers allowed in stores at one time, requiring employees to undergo health checks before starting shifts, adding contactless payment methods and more. 

Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart and Minneapolis-based Target Corp. are among retailers regulating store entry. Walmart is ensuring social distancing by allowing no more than five customers per 1,000 square feet at any given time — approximately 20% of stores’ capacity.  

To facilitate the process, associates mark a queue at a single-entry door and admit customers one by one. Once capacity is reached, customers will be admitted inside on a “one-out-one-in" basis. 

Walmart and grocers like Hy-Vee Inc., West Des Moines, Iowa, are instituting one-way movement through the aisles of the stores. Hy-Vee placed one-way direction signage in all stores. The signage is a way to prevent customers from passing one another in an effort maintain social distancing. Hy-Vee is also encouraging customers to designate one person per family to visit the store and to avoid shopping in groups. The grocer is strongly encouraging a “one-person-per-cart” rule. 

“We continue to implement additional ways to adapt at Hy-Vee, so that we can serve our customers and protect the health and wellness of those who work and shop in our stores,” said Randy Edeker, chairman, chief executive officer and president of Hy-Vee. 

Grocers like Meijer, Grand Rapids, Mich., have implemented daily health screenings for associates. Upon arrival, team members have their temperatures taken and must complete a health assessment questionnaire. Team members ineligible to work due to symptoms will be encouraged to connect with their healthcare providers and those directed to stay home will be eligible for the Meijer COVID-19 Pay Continuation Program. 

"As we navigate these challenging times, we will continue to look for ways to ensure our stores provide the safest shopping environment possible," said Rick Keyes, president and CEO of Meijer. "Nothing is more important than keeping our team members and customers safe." 

Other retailers are offering contactless pay options. All Publix stores have been equipped with the ability to accept contactless pay through Apply Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay. With contactless payment, customers can place their smartphone or contactless-pay enabled credit or debit card near the contactless-enable device instead of swiping or inserting their card into a card-reading device.  

“In these unprecedented times, we recognized the need to make our customers’ trips to our stores faster and more efficient,” said Todd Jones, CEO of Publix. “By expediting this payment option, we will help customers reduce contact with commonly used surfaces like PIN pads.” 

With associates working in unprecedented conditions, many retailers are closing stores on Easter Sunday and giving employees the day off to spend at home with their families. Trader Joe’s, Monrovia, Calif.; Sprout’s Farmers Market, Phoenix; and Southeastern Grocers, Jacksonville, Fla., are among retailers closing for the holiday.