Wegmans Food Markets is altering its store-opening strategy to protect shoppers amid some pandemic-related realities.
The Rochester, N.Y.-based retailer said that while it remains committed to opening three new stores in 2020, the company will be taking a more cautious approach to grand-opening festivities than it has in the past, because of the COVID-19 crisis.
The company noted that it will no longer reveal a specific opening date for each of its new stores, presumably in an effort to lessen the size of grand-opening crowds, and thereby possibly lessen the spread of coronavirus. Attendance at Wegmans' opening days can be quite large: For instance, more than 25,000 people -- or Wegmaniacs, as the chain's biggest fans are known -- showed up to the grand opening of Wegmans' 101st store in New York in October.
The retailer is also warning consumers who shop its stores on opening days that there might be long lines due to shopper-metering efforts (Wegmans has been limiting stores to 15%-20% of capacity).
"As we keep the safety of our employees and customers a top priority, we’ve had to rethink how we open these stores," said a statement on the retailer's website. "While we love the excitement of opening morning, with customers anxiously [waiting] to see their new Wegmans, we know this isn’t possible, as the need to maintain social distancing remains. With that in mind, we will share a targeted time frame that the store will open. We believe this will allow us to keep our employees and customers safe, and also give us flexibility to open our doors as soon as possible."
According to Wegmans, it will be limiting the number of customers in the store at any given time "to ensure we are able to maintain safe social distancing. With these measures in place ... you may need to wait in line to enter the store."
The strategic shift for Wegmans comes amid the company's various efforts to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
Earlier this month, Wegmans said it would donate $4 million to its partner food banks. The retailer increased its employee pay by $2 an hour during the months of March and April. Additionally, the company is strongly encouraging customers to wear masks while shopping its stores.
"Short of refusing entrance to our stores, we are doing everything we can to educate our customers of the mandate, and stress the importance of voluntary compliance to keep themselves and everyone around them safe. We have put a number of social- distancing measures in place throughout our stores; however, we continue to follow the guidance of the CDC, which recommends people wear a face covering when out in public to help slow the spread of the virus," the company said.
In April, Wegmans, which is renowned for its innovative foodservice operations, temporarily closed all of its prepared food departments and other self-service foodservice features in-store; the company has not said when it plans to reopen these features, but a manager at a Fairfax, Va., store told Progressive Grocer that the hot and cold bars could be available to customers again in June.
Family-owned Wegmans operates 101 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts. The company is No. 36 on PG’s 2020 list of the top grocers in the United States.