The parent companies of three local supermarkets have released information about what their stores are doing to help control the spread of coronavirus.
The St. Cloud-based food chain shared a March 15 letter from their CEO, Chris Coborn, apologizing that customers are finding some products hard to find.
“Our teams are doing everything they can to get you the products you are looking for,” he wrote. “That being said, our suppliers are running behind schedule and our manufacturers are struggling to keep up with production due to an unprecedented surge in demand nationwide.”
Coborn acknowledged that customers may see less product on stores’ shelves in the next few days, but added, “Our teams will fill those shelves as quickly as we can.”
Store hours in many Coborn’s are being shortened to allow more time for cleaning, disinfecting and stocking shelves, he said. As of Monday, staff at the Park Rapids store said they plan to be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Coborn also advised that full-service areas, like meat or deli, will transition to self-service areas with pre-packaged items. This is to allow workers in those areas to help stock shelves and fulfill online orders, and wherever there are pressing needs.
Communications staff at Coborn’s headquarters added, “We do have online ordering, and business has increased. We are continuing to monitor the coronavirus situation and will make changes accordingly.”
According to Lisa Swanson, communication’s director with the Grand Forks, N.D.-based supermarket chain, said Monday that their business hours will not change. “Grocery stores are a vital community need,” she explained.
Regarding precautions being taken within the store, Swanson said, “The health and safety of our customers and our associates are of utmost importance to us. So, we continue to monitor CDC and state and local guidelines closely. We have a team that meets regularly to monitor the ever-evolving COVID-19 situation.”
Steps they have taken include increasing their cleaning and sanitation practices, providing sanitizing wipe stations in the stores, and encouraging associates to wash their hands regularly and stay home if they are sick, she said.
“We have included plastic gloves in the deli and bakery areas for customers,” Swanson added.
She also emphasized that the Park Rapids store has online shopping with delivery and curbside pickup in place. “We have seen an increase in this throughout the company,” she said.
Swanson said Hugo’s is working with vendors to deliver as much product as possible and has associates “working around the clock to clean, sanitize and stock shelves.
“Due to some supply chain issues, sporadic shortages may occur,” she said, but with multiple deliveries every week, they don’t expect these shortages to last long. “Limits may be placed on some items to ensure that customers in need of essential products can get them.”
A Walmart corporate media release includes a link to a video message by Walmart U.S. CEO John Furner, noting that the company’s website, stores and fulfillment centers have seen a “runup in business” during the current situation.
Nevertheless, he said, “everyone is working really hard to take care of customers, and that’s what we should be doing right now.”
Reflecting on Walmart’s role in the community, Furner said, “We serve millions of people each and every day, and we’ve got to be ready for our customers to be served in any way they want to be served.” He added that their vendors and stockers are working hard to get goods to the customers.
According to a March 14 release from Dacona Smith, executive vice president and COO of Walmart U.S., their store hours will be 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. until further notice. Stores already open for more reduced hours will keep their current business hours.
“This will help ensure associates are able to stock the products our customers are looking for and to perform cleaning and sanitizing,” she wrote.
Smith noted that Walmart has a temporary COVID-19 emergency leave policy for its employees. According to a memo from Furner and other corporate officers, U.S. associates who choose to stay at home due to COVID-19 concerns will not be cited for attendance occurrences, but will need to use their paid-time-off to be paid. If a Walmart facility is quarantined, affected employees will receive up to two weeks of pay and their absences will not count against their attendance. Associates with a confirmed case of coronavirus will receive up to two weeks of pay and, if necessary, will be eligible for up to 26 weeks of pay replacement after that.
Walmart has also waived its requirement that employees be with the company for at least a year before being eligible for an Associates in Need Trust grant, the policy stated.
Walmart also announced on March 10 that its stores are taking preventative measures including daily sanitizing of high-touch, high-traffic areas and an increased employee focus on cleaning. “We’re sending additional cleaning supplies for use in places like the registers and on shopping carts,” the release said.
Lake Country Foods
Management at Lake Country Foods responded to Enterprise inquiries on March 19, noting that they do not plan to change their business hours, "but if we end up short on staff because of people getting sick, then we will have to make some adjustments."
They said they have run out of hand sanitizer and sanitary wipes for sale, but they are making their own for customers and staff to use in the store. Staff goes through the store with sanitary wipes and sanitizer spray, cleansing handles and other areas.
Staff members wear masks to prevent them from getting sick or spreading illness, and are keeping distance between people. "Don't get the wrong impression," store management says. "We are just trying to keep ourselves well so we can continue serving the community."
The store offers pickup and delivery service for customers. "We do ask the public not to come into the store if they are sick, especially running a fever. If someone is sick and needs something, call us and we can get what you need together and bring it out to your car or have it delivered," management says.