Customers of Walmart may have noticed the recently added labels on the floors of the stores, reminding and guiding them to adhere to the six-feet rule of social distancing in the coronavirus era. Beginning Saturday, there will be more changes at the retail giant: limits on the number of shoppers in the store at one time.
“Starting Saturday, we will limit the number of customers who can be in a store at once. Stores will now allow no more than five customers for each 1,000 square feet at a given time, roughly 20 percent of a store’s capacity,” Walmart corporate headquarters announced in a press release.
“To manage this restriction, the associates at a store will mark a queue at a single-entry door (in most cases the Grocery entrance) and direct arriving customers there, where they will be admitted one-by-one and counted,” explained Dacona Smith, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Walmart U.S. “Associates and signage will remind customers of the importance of social distancing while they’re waiting to enter a store – especially before it opens in the morning.
“Once a store reaches its capacity, customers will be admitted inside on a ‘1-out-1-in’ basis.”
For the Altavista Walmart, this change will not create a big impact, as the typical number of shoppers does not greatly exceed what the new regulations will require.
The shopping experience will also be slightly modified. To help ensure that customers maintain the obligatory distance, the aisles of at least some Walmart stores will become one-way streets, with floor markers and store associates helping direct traffic. The purpose of this strategy is to help minimize customers coming into contact with each other.
Signage throughout the stores will also provide ever-present reminders to shoppers to practice social distancing, particularly when they are queuing up. Finally, departing customers will exit via a different door than the one being used for entrance.
Smith pointed out that not all shoppers have been following social distancing policy, which led to the increased measures. “We care deeply about our associates’ health and well-being, and in recent weeks we’ve taken steps such as expanding our paid leave policies; closing our stores overnight for cleanings and restocking; installing sneeze guards and social distance markers in stores; beginning temperature checks; and starting to make gloves and masks available to associates who want them.
“While many of our customers have been following the advice of the medical community regarding social distancing and safety, we have been concerned to still see some behaviors in our stores that put undue risk on our people. We want to encourage customers to bring the fewest number of people per family necessary to shop, allow for space with other customers while shopping, and practice social distancing while waiting in lines. We’re also seeing states and municipalities set varying policies regarding crowd control – which has created some confusion regarding shopping.”
The press release also noted that Walmart leadership—like the rest of us—long for the time when these temporary measures have passed. “We always want people to feel welcome at Walmart, and we know that in ordinary times a store is a gathering place for members of a community to connect and socialize. We look forward to the time when that is again the case; however, we now want to prioritize health and safety by encouraging customers to do their shopping at a distance from others, then head home.”