"With the increase in COVID-19 cases across the country — as America’s grocer — we are committed to doing our part to help reduce the spread of the virus," Kristal Howard, Head of Corporate Communications and Media Relations for Kroger, said. "Starting July 22, we will require all customers in all locations to wear a mask when shopping in our stores, joining our associates who continue to wear masks. We are taking this extra step now because we recognize additional precautions are needed to protect our country."
The retailer says it acknowledges that some customers, due to medical reasons, may not be able to wear a mask (small children are exempt).
"We encourage those customers to consider an alternative option like a face shield or facial covering. If they’re unable to wear a mask or an alternative design, we request that they use our e-commerce services like pickup or delivery. To support all households during the COVID-19 pandemic, our grocery pickup service remains free (generally a $4.95 fee)," Howard said.
Back in April, Costco was one of the first food retailers to implement a mask mandate amid the escalating COVID-19 crisis.
On Wednesday, the Washington, D.C.-based National Retail Federation issued a statement urging all retailers to adopt a nationwide policy requiring customers to wear masks amid the pandemic, referring to the the world largest retail chain's new requirement as a possible "tipping point in this public health debate."
Earlier in the day Walmart said it would be mandating masks for shoppers and employees starting on July 20.
Cincinnati-based Kroger employs nearly half a million associates who serve 9 million-plus customers daily through a seamless digital shopping experience and 2,757 retail food stores under a variety of banner names. The company is No. 3 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2020 list of the top food retailers in the United States.