Walmart said it is taking preventative measures to keep its 4,600 stores clean and free from the coronavirus, despite at least one worker in Kentucky that has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
The retail giant said its stores are cleaned daily, but an additional level of sanitization in high-touch areas is being done.
“We have increased associate focus on cleaning and have dedicated an associate to maintain key areas throughout the day. We’ve seen increased foot traffic, so we’re sending additional cleaning supplies for use in places like the registers and on shopping carts,” Walmart said in a recent memo.
The company is also exploring easier ways to sanitize shopping carts and said there are plans in place for third-party sanitization should it be needed for a store impacted by the virus.
Walmart said store hours could be modified at some 24-hour facilities to allow for additional cleaning.
There has been a massive run on cleaning disinfectants and toilet paper. Shelves at local Walmart and Neighborhood Market stores were emptied in the past few days across Northwest Arkansas and the rest of the country.
Walmart said it is working to replenish those items quickly, including diverting products to areas of the country where they are needed most and routing deliveries directly to stores. In the wake of this increased demand, Walmart said it also authorized store managers to keep a close eye on inventory levels and the discretion to limit sales quantities on items that are in unusually high demand.
“Online, we are taking a firm stance related to the potential for price gouging by third-party sellers. Violations of our seller pricing policy and seller prohibited items policy will not be tolerated and will be resolved quickly. If you see this happening, report your concern here,” Walmart said in a recent memo.
Analysts have said Walmart’s ongoing efforts to reduce inventory overhang is admirable, but it leaves the retailer vulnerable in time of surprisingly high demand.
Fayetteville-based data research firm Field Agent reported Walmart and Sam’s Clubs were 100% out of stock this past weekend for disinfectant wipes in the 14 stores and eight clubs it surveyed. Those Walmart stores were 43% out of stock on hand soap.
Target fared slightly better with 90 out of stocks on disinfectant wipes. Costco was 80% out of stock and Walgreens was 73% out of stock. CVS was just 60% out of stock on the wipes.
Field Agent said one in three consumers surveyed said they have already made a non-routine purchase of at least one item specifically in preparation and for precaution against the spread of COVID-19. The market data firm said most of these respondents live in areas that have so far been minimally impacted by the COVID-19.
Other items consumers are buying in the wake of COVID-19 include bottled water, canned soups and frozen meats and vegetables.