Walmart officials said Friday (April 3) the company will limit the number of shoppers who can enter its stores to keep crowding to a minimum. The new regulations were triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic and will go into effect Saturday (April 4).
Walmart will allow no more than five people per 1,000 square feet of space (roughly 20% of the store) to be inside at any given time. There will only be one entrance open (grocery side) and it will be monitored. Customers will be admitted individually and counted. Employees and signage will remind customers of the importance of social distancing while they wait to enter a store, especially before it opens in the morning.
Once a store reaches its capacity, customers will be admitted inside on a “1-out-1-in” basis, the retailer said.
“While many of our customers have been following the advice of the medical community regarding social distancing and safety, we have been concerned to still see some behaviors in our stores that put undue risk on our people,” Walmart U.S. Chief Operating Officer Dacona Smith wrote in a blog post on Walmart’s corporate website. “We want to encourage customers to bring the fewest number of people per family necessary to shop, allow for space with other customers while shopping, and practice social distancing while waiting in lines. We’re also seeing states and municipalities set varying policies regarding crowd control – which has created some confusion regarding shopping.”
Smith said there will be one-way movement through the aisles which will be implemented over the next week. He said that should help customers from being too close as they shop.
“We’ll continue to put signage inside our stores to remind customers of the need to maintain social distancing — especially in lines. And once customers check out, they will be directed to exit through a different door than they entered, which should help lessen the instances of people closely passing each other,” Smith said.
The move comes after Walmart said earlier in the week it had hoped to not limit shopper numbers in-store given the store hours had already been reduced substantially. Given that more shoppers are concerned about others not following the social distancing guidelines, the retail giant decided to move to a tighter protocol.
Analysts expect the new measures could take a toll on store profitability.