The food retail landscape is quickly becoming a place of mandated masked commerce.
Albertsons and Associated Food Stores — which operates Lin’s, Macey’s, Dan’s Fresh Market, Dick’s Fresh Market and Fresh Market — along with Fresh Thyme Farmers Market and Aldi are among the latest retailers to announced mask mandates. They join a group that has rapidly expanded over the last week or so as many areas in the U.S. report fresh coronavirus spikes, and as trade groups and the largest union for food retail workers increase pressure for nationwide mask mandates.
The Associated Food Stores and Fresh Thyme mask requirements for shoppers goes into effect Monday. The new Albertsons policy starts Tuesday, while Aldi has set July 27 as its start date.
“As local grocers, we feel a responsibility to help our communities battle this unprecedented illness. We also recognize our stores are primary gathering spaces in the community and want to do our part to encourage overall public health,” said David Rice, president of Associated Retail Operations. “This new requirement is based on our desire to do everything in our power to help slow the spread while keeping our team members and customers safe.”
Major food retailers such as Walmart, Target, The Kroger Co., Schnucks and Publix are among the commerce operations that have recently set their own masks requirements — which apply even in states that have resisted making mask mandates. As masking inside food and other retail stores gains support, the legal battles over masking policies from store operators are also gathering steam.
Two food retail chains in Minnesota, Lunds & Byerlys and Kowalski's Markets, also announced their own mask mandates that start in the coming days.
Those mandates also are taking effect as retail sales show the first real signs of improvement since the pandemic started — a fragile state of affairs that the fresh spikes of coronavirus have put at risk.
Meanwhile, Marc Benioff, the CEO of customer relationship management software provider Salesforce, said that people who refuse to wear masks in public should be fined like people who fail to wear seat belts. “At some point, the government has to step in and say ‘Yes, you have to wear a mask, and if you’re not wearing a mask, you’re going to get fined.’ Just like if you don’t wear a seat belt, you get a fine,” Benioff told CNN. Salesforce is a major player in e-commerce tech, and those comments provide another signal of how corporate, tech and retail attitudes are shifting in favor of mask mandates.
Albertsons operates 2,252 retail stores with 1,726 pharmacies, 402 associated fuel centers, 23 dedicated distribution centers and 20 manufacturing facilities. The company’s stores predominantly operate under the banners Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Pavilions, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Carrs, Jewel-Osco, Acme, Shaw’s, Star Market, United Supermarkets, Market Street and Haggen. Albertsons is No. 8 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2020 list of the top food retailers in North America. Associated Food Stores holds the No. 70 spot. Downers Grove, Ill.-based Fresh Thyme Farmers Market operates approximately 75 stores in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The company is No. 93 on Progressive Grocer’s 2020 PG 100 list of the top grocers in the United States. Aldi U.S. is No. 26 on the list.