Vermont Tells Big-Box Stores to Stop Selling ‘Nonessential’ Items in Person

Bridget Goldschmidt
Managing Editor
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Vermont Tells Big-Box Stores to Stop Selling ‘Nonessential’ Items in Person
The Green Mountain State wants big-box stores to cease selling what it calls "nonessential" items in person, as a way to reduce traffic in those locations

In what could have a major ripple effect on retailers across the United States, Vermont’s Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) is directing mass merchandisers such as Walmart, Target and Costco to discontinue in-person sales of what it deems "nonessential" items to lower the number of customers visiting these stores. The state is apparently the first to issue such a directive.

According to a release from the Montpelier-based agency, nonessential categories include arts and crafts; beauty; carpet and flooring; clothing; consumer electronics; entertainment (books, music, movies); furniture; home and garden; jewelry; paint; photo services; sports equipment; and toys.

“Large ‘big-box’ retailers generate significant shopping traffic by virtue of their size and the variety of goods offered in a single location,” explained ACCD Secretary Lindsay Kurrle. “This volume of shopping traffic significantly increases the risk of further spread of this dangerous virus to Vermonters and the viability of Vermont’s health care system. We are directing these stores to put public health first and help us reduce the number of shoppers by requiring online ordering, delivery and curbside pickup whenever possible, and by stopping the sale of nonessential items.”

An executive order from Vermont Gov. Phil Scott permits in-person business operations to continue at grocery stores, pharmacies, fuel product and supply retailers, hardware stores, and retailers offering transportation-sector and agricultural-sector equipment parts, repair and maintenance, as long these retail operations enable online and telephone orders for delivery and curbside pickup as much as possible.

To comply with the order, mass merchandisers must restrict access to nonessential goods by closing aisles or portions of their stores, or removing the items from the selling floor; selling such items only via online portals, telephone, delivery or curbside pickup, to the extent possible; and closing all showrooms and garden sections of home improvement centers, except in the event of an emergency.

In common with grocery stores, mass merchandisers have seen sharp sales increases driven by shoppers eager to stock up on staple items amid the pandemic. For instance, Issaquah, Wash.-based Costco posted an 11.7% increase in same-store sales for the month of February, when panic buying began.

Walmart Inc. operates about 11,500 stores under 56 banners in 27 countries, and ecommerce websites, employing more than 2.2 million associates worldwide. The mega-retailer is No. 1 on Progressive Grocer’s 2019 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the United States. Target operates more than 1,800 stores, 39 distribution centers and The company is No. 15 on PG’s 2019 list.

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