WHAT: The coronavirus has affected the lives of millions of state residents, and every grocery store retailer in Alabama is taking the necessary precautions to keep its associates and customers safe. At the same time, grocers are balancing an unimagined demand for food supplies driven by public fear.
WHO: As an industry, grocery retailers have been adjusting quickly to the new normal of intermittent out-of-stocks and sporadic customer surges; despite enormous logistical challenges, our state’s grocery community has worked around the clock to supply food to Alabama families while at the same time implementing new policies of social distancing and limiting customer density in our stores.
HOW: Alabama Grocers are taking essential steps in working to flatten the COVID-19 curve in each of the communities we serve. These steps start at our front doors and end at the point of checkout and customers leaving our stores.
Below is a sampling of the precautions Alabama grocery retailers have put in place:
- Managers along with all store associates are being trained on social distancing techniques and general best health practices.
- These communications have become part of daily management routines.
- Stores are adhering to national grocery industry COVID-19 guidelines that have been approved by the CDC.
- This guidance also includes steps for grocery retailers if store personnel become infected or if a known customer is infected with COVID-19.
- Many retailers are providing special hours for older customers and those with weakened immune systems.
- Grocers have an infrastructure to provide online fulfillment either at the store level or through a third-party provider, such as Shipt or Instacart. Stores are increasing those capabilities across the state’s entire supply chain, and this is helping reduce the number of customers coming into our stores.
- Alabama Grocers have partnered with the Alabama EMA to provide a list of stores that provide these services to distribute to consumers and are encouraging Alabama consumers to minimize their exposure and utilize these services where available.
- Grocery stores have closed all in-store cafes and seating areas. These areas are closed in order to prevent customers from gathering and sitting closely to one another.
- Many stores are installing clear plastic guards at registers. Because the register area does not allow for the cashier and customer to maintain six feet apart per CDC guidelines, plexiglass guards are being added for additional protection in one the of the most vulnerable areas of the store.
- Whenever possible, we are opening only every other register lane to create further distancing between customers at checkout instead of opening lanes right next to each other.
- Signage is being placed in stores that reminds customers to stand at least 6 feet apart from others, plus other guidelines from the CDC. Signage is being placed at registers, front doors, deli, pharmacy and other places throughout the store.
- Many retailers are now providing tape on the floors at each register so customers understand the 6-foot distance they should keep from others. The length of two standing shopping carts creates a natural spacing for social distancing.
- Many stores are requiring those with reusable bags to bag their own groceries to prevent cross contamination. We are reminding customers to wash reusable bags after each use and to store bags in a clean, cool and dry location.
- Store associates are wiping down and disinfecting shopping cart handles as often as needed throughout the day.
IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Grocery retailers are working tirelessly with current suppliers to ensure consumer demands are met at an unusually high rate. In addition, they have been creative at sourcing additional product from non-traditional suppliers to ensure the shelves are stocked as quickly as possible. It is important to note that the grocery retail industry is a very low profit margin and highly competitive business. Consumers can assist us in keeping prices as low as possible for Alabamians by not stockpiling products and utilizing normal shopping habits.