The Kroger Co. will be limiting the number of people allowed in stores and experimenting with one-way aisles to extend the distance between shoppers.
The grocery chain announced Monday that its nearly 2,800 stores would be limiting capacity by half, and only allowing entry to a restricted number of people based on each store’s square footage.
"Kroger's introduction of customer capacity limits is one more way we are doing our part to flatten the curve while operating as an essential business, providing our customers with access to fresh, affordable food and products," said Mary Ellen Adcock, Kroger's senior vice president of operations. "During this national pandemic, we are committed to adopting preventive measures to help protect the safety and health of our associates, customers and communities."
As an illustration, the standard building capacity for a grocery store is one person per 60 square feet. Under Kroger's new reduced capacity limits, the number will be one person per 120 square feet. Kroger will begin to monitor the number of customers per square foot in its stores using its industry-leading QueVision technology, which already provides a count of the customers entering and exiting stores.
"By leveraging QueVision, our technology system that uses infrared sensors and predictive analytics, we will be able to more efficiently support our new capacity limits, creating a safer environment for our customers and associates," said Yael Cosset, Kroger's chief technology and digital officer.
Kroger's new customer capacity limits join other measures the retailer has established over the last few weeks to promote physical distancing, including the addition of plexiglass partitions and educational floor decals and airing of a healthy habits message via in-store radio to encourage customers to practice good hygiene and spatial awareness.
Kroger is also testing one-way aisles in some locations to keep shoppers socially distanced during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The “directional shopping,” said Kroger officials, will “further support physical distancing.” They did not identify which local stores, if any, may try the modification, according to the Dayton Daily News.
Kroger has also announced other measures:
- Kroger is encouraging associates to wear protective masks and gloves. The retailer has ordered masks for associates nationwide, with supply starting to arrive in select regions and the anticipation of all locations having supply by the end of this week.
- Kroger is asking associates to closely monitor their health and take their temperature at home prior to coming to work. If they experience symptoms, including a fever, they are encouraged to contact their health care provider and stay home. Under its expanded COVID-19 emergency leave guidelines, associates self-isolating or experiencing symptoms as verified by a health care professional are eligible to receive their standard pay for up to two weeks (14 days).
- The retailer started testing temperature checks in its distribution centers several weeks ago and is beginning to expand associate temperature checks to stores. Kroger and its affiliates are following local ordinances in cities or counties that mandate employee temperature checks, and associates may also request to have their temperature taken at work.
- Kroger is temporarily waiving fees for prescription delivery via mail or courier. To learn more about the options and availability, customers should contact their local pharmacy location.
- As part of Kroger's commitment to end hunger and eliminate waste in its communities by 2025, the retailer continues to allow its customers to use reusable shopping bags, provided there is not a state or local ordinance that prohibits use. The retailer encourages its customers to frequently clean and wipe down their reusable shopping bags to help maintain a safe shopping environment.
- Kroger is closing early on Easter Sunday, April 12, to provide its associates with more time to rest and be with their families. Holiday operating hours will vary by location and market.
Other retailers such as Hy-Vee and Walmart have also been testing and implementing one-way aisle movement in stores. Of course, grocer Stew Leonard's is the original innovator when it comes to one-way aisles. Its stores have had a zig-zag, one-way layout for decades.
Kroger has hired more than 32,700 new associates in the past two weeks, many from restaurants, hotels and foodservice distributors that were closed due to the coronavirus.
Additionally, the grocer and its Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation have deployed more than $3 million to hunger-relief resources for those communities most impacted by the coronavirus.
Kroger employs nearly half a million associates who serve 9 million-plus customers daily through a seamless digital shopping experience and 2,769 retail food stores under a variety of banner names. The company is No. 2 on Progressive Grocer’s 2019 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the United States.