As consumers and workers alike grapple with the spread of the novel coronavirus, some stores are responding by increasing the frequency of cleanings and suspending free food samples.
On top of its regular daily cleanings, Minneapolis-based Target is adding additional payroll hours to each store to make sure areas such as checkout lanes and touch screens are cleaned at least every 30 minutes, CEO Brian Cornell wrote in a message posted on the company’s corporate website and sent to customers.
“Like many others, we’re taking guidance from the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], which recommends regular cleaning as one of the most important preventive measures we can take,” he said. “And, out of an abundance of caution, we’ve temporarily stopped food sampling in our stores.”
Target offers food samples in nearly half of its stores. Costco, which is known for its food sampling, also has stopped the practice in at least some stores due to the coronavirus outbreak.
There are three cases locally of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, and nearly 120,000 worldwide.
In addition to increased cleanings of its stores, Richfield-based Best Buy is putting hand sanitizer at the front entrances and at all cash registers, according to a note sent to customers on Tuesday. Employees also have sanitizing wipes handy to keep workstations and counters clean.
The company added that it will reschedule appointments for deliveries, installations or repairs at no additional cost and can do in-home consultations over the phone or via video instead. For customers who do not feel well or who don’t want to come to stores, Best Buy suggested customers visit its website or mobile app to place orders.
Mall of America, which said it already had rigorous cleaning procedures, has intensified its efforts, management said in a statement. Beyond reminding employees about the importance of hand washing and wiping down work surfaces, MOA has added hand-sanitizing stations and posted educational messages about prevention around the mall.
Grocery chains such as Cub and Lunds & Byerlys said they are cleaning the surfaces in stores more frequently as a precaution, including its food bars, checkout lanes, and handles on shopping carts and hand baskets.
Coborn’s is requiring cashiers to clean their checkout lanes and bagging stations, scanning scales, credit card readers, keyboards and pens at the beginning and end of their shift at a minimum, said Dennis Host, a spokesman. The grocer is also encouraging cashiers to sanitize their stations when customers buy cough, cold or flu products or when they appear to be visibly sick as an extra precaution.
Best Buy and Target, like many companies, also have suspended nonessential domestic work travel and are canceling meetings of large gatherings of people. Target, for example, decided to webcast its investors meeting last week instead of conducting it in person in New York. It also has postponed an annual meeting with hundreds of vendors scheduled for this month in Minneapolis.
As the coronavirus continues to spread, and as more people work from home, retail analysts expect online shopping to become an even more popular option.
Some delivery services, such as Instacart, Postmates and Target’s Shipt, have begun encouraging shoppers to leave items on doorsteps for contactless deliveries amid concerns of the coronavirus.
At the same time, some stores continue to be quite busy. Costco has said coronavirus-related shopping led to a sizable spike in sales at the end of last month. Target’s Cornell told analysts last week that the retailer has seen “aggressive shopping” in its stores as customers are stocking up on cleaning supplies, household staples and food and beverages.
Over the weekend, Target, like some other retailers, began putting limits on the number of disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizers customers can buy at one time as many of those products have become in short supply as customers have stockpiled them.
On Tuesday, Cornell said Target is “working around the clock” to replenish store shelves as quickly as possible. He added that Target is also beefing up staffing of “in-demand” services such as curbside pickup in which customers don’t have to get out of their car.
Both Target and Best Buy said they are encouraging employees to stay home if they are feeling sick, but the companies did not say if they are updating their sick leave policies like some other companies.
Walmart executives said on Tuesday they are rolling out an emergency-leave program after one of its store employees in Cynthiana, Ky., tested positive for the coronavirus. One of the nation’s largest employers, Walmart is giving employees up to two weeks of pay if they work in an area with a mandated quarantine or if they contract COVID-19, with additional pay after that if they can’t return to work.