With grocery shoppers flocking to stores to stock up on supplies for the coronavirus outbreak, grocery chains are announcing measures to enhance sanitation and maintain supplies.
Walmart said Saturday (March 14) it will begin reducing store hours in about 2,200 stores that have been open 24-hours a day. Beginning Sunday (March 15), those stores will open at 6 a.m. and close at 11 p.m until further notice. The retail giant said about 2,500 of its stores already close overnight and their hours will not be impacted. Most Neighborhood Markets operate from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The reduction in hours is needed to provide the ability to restock products and to perform cleaning and sanitizing as Walmart works to keep the coronavirus at bay.
“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. As a reminder, we have a temporary COVID-19 emergency leave policy to support associates at this unprecedented time,” said Dacona Smith, chief operating officer for Walmart U.S.
Smith said products are moving through the supply chain and making their way to stores. To manage inventory, store managers have the discretion to limit sales quantities on items that are in unusually high demand.
He said employees will keep their regular daytime or evening hours and he reiterated how proud management is of employees in stores and distribution centers during this time of so many unknowns and the unprecedented demand for certain products in the massive store network.
Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon said Friday stores could be out of stock or short on stock on items like hand sanitizers and disinfectants for some time. He urged consumers to follow routine hand-washing practices with soap and water and to follow the recommendations of health officials. He said retailers are restocking stores as fast as they can get the products.
Other retailers such as H-E-B in the Houston area made similar announcements on Friday, regarding reduced hours.
Springdale-based grocery retailer Harps Food Stores also announced Saturday its stores will operate from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., effective Monday (March 15). The reduction in hours will allow store crews to clean and restock items.
Harps is employee-owned and operates 92 stores in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas. It employs more than 4,500.