Retailers Respond To Coronavirus Outbreak

Retailers across a range of channels are addressing the coronavirus outbreak in stores and online, responding with measures to address consumer and employee safety and health concerns, ramping up the cleaning of stores and boosting cleaning tool and supply assortments to meet increased consumer needs.

Target posted and distributed a letter from CEO Brian Cornell addressing the coronavirus outbreak and measures the retailer is taking to address it. Many of the measures retailers are taking are emerging from recommendations of the United States Center for Disease Control.

Cornell stated that Target is adding hours to each store’s payroll that will translate into more time spent cleaning stores, including cleaning surfaces like checklanes and touchscreens, which employees will address at least every 30 minutes. The company also is staffing up Order Pickup and Drive Up services for customers. And it is moving key, in demand items including cleaning supplies, medicines and pantry stock-up products to stores more quickly in anticipation of ongoing demand.

Walmart stated in part on its website, “First and foremost, we are taking preventive measures to keep our stores clean and maintain a healthy environment. Stores are cleaned daily, which includes using sanitizing solutions in high-touch, high-traffic areas. We have increased associate focus on cleaning and have dedicated an associate to maintain key areas throughout the day… Looking forward, we are pursuing easier ways to sanitize shopping carts. We also have plans in place for third-party sanitization should it be needed for a store impacted by the virus. And we are evaluating whether to modify store hours at some 24-hour facilities to allow for additional cleaning.”

Walmart also addressed market concerns regarding price gouging: “Second, we will work to keep our stores stocked and prices fair. As one would expect, paper products, cleaning supplies and other items are in high demand as customers prepare for the possible impact of COVID-19. We are working to replenish those items quickly, including diverting products to areas of the country where they are needed most and routing deliveries directly to stores. We have also authorized our store managers to manage their inventory, including the discretion to limit sales quantities on items that are in unusually high demand. Online, we are taking a firm stance related to the potential for price gouging by third-party sellers. Violations of our Seller Pricing Policy and Seller Prohibited Items Policy will not be tolerated and will be resolved quickly.”

Mary Dillon, CEO, Ulta Beauty, stated in part on the Ulta Beauty website, “The cleanliness of our stores is always a top priority for us, and now more than ever. In addition to our regular cleaning procedures, increased sanitization measures are being added to all locations with extra attention to product testers and high traffic areas.  For any guest wanting to use a tester or trial a product, please ask an associate to assist you… With our hair, skin, brow, and makeup services, hygiene is always a focus and we’re taking additional steps here as well.  For guests who have services booked, we’re happy to reschedule your appointment for a later date. We encourage you to reschedule if you’re not feeling well.”

In a letter to customers, Marvin Ellison, Lowe’s president and CEO, stated in part, “We’ve spent the last several weeks preparing for how the virus may impact the communities we serve. We’ve established a task force that is working closely with the CDC, health authorities and all stores across the country to ensure we’re taking all necessary preventative measures. We will continue to keep you, our valued customer, and our associates at the center of our planning and decision making.”

Ellison noted, “We have teams working closely with our suppliers to ensure the products you want are available when you need them. Due to high demand for items such as masks and cleaning supplies, we recently started limiting the number of items per purchase to ensure more customers are able to get the products they need. We’re working to keep our shelves stocked as quickly as possible. We continue to offer more ways for you to get the products you need most— whether that’s through buy online, pick-up in store or quick delivery options.”

In a message attributed to chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen, Kroger stated, “At Kroger, our customers are like family. And like you, during these last few weeks we’ve been focused on doing all the things we need to do to keep our families safe and healthy. We believe that everyone deserves to have access to fresh, affordable food and essentials, especially in times of uncertainty. That’s why our teams are working so hard to keep our stores clean, open and stocked. That’s why we took the precautionary step on March 2 to limit the number of cold, flu and sanitary products per order…so everyone can have access to the items they need. And that’s why our supply chain teams are working to ensure that the food, medicine and cleaning supplies our customers need are reaching our stores as quickly as possible and are available through our pickup, delivery and ship services. “

Kroger added, “We activated our preparedness plan several weeks ago, and we continue to monitor the rapidly evolving situation. We’re following guidance from federal, state and local agencies, including the CDC and other health organizations… [We are] cleaning commonly used areas more often, including cashier stations, self-checkouts, credit card terminals, conveyor belts and food service counters, and cleaning shelves when restocking products.”

On its corporate blog, Best Buy stated in part, “We have one simple objective that guides us: keeping you and our employees safe. This has been at the center of our conversations every step of the way. With that in mind, we have made several moves in our business in response to the threat of the coronavirus… We have ramped up cleaning services at our stores and are adding hand sanitizer at the front entrances and at all cash registers. Sanitizing wipes are near workstations and counters so that employees can keep them continuously cleaned… A strict travel policy for our employees is in place, and we have canceled meetings with large gatherings, again to do what we can to help prevent the spread of the illness… If you don’t feel well, or choose not to visit one of our stores, of course we are ready to serve you at or through the Best Buy app.”