Retailers shift hours, limit number of customers in stores due to outbreak

A person loads bags of groceries into a car.
A Lunds & Byerlys employee in Uptown Minneapolis loads groceries for a customer who ordered them online on Tuesday. The grocery store chain is among retailers reducing its hours due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Judy Griesedieck for MPR News

Updated: March 19, 8:03 p.m. | Posted: March 18, 9:55 a.m.

Some major retailers have shifted hours and operations to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

Minneapolis-based Target says it will close its stores at 9 p.m. and add staff for cleaning checkout lanes and other areas that guests contact. The company will also reserve the first hour of operations on Wednesdays for elderly and medically vulnerable shoppers.

Kowalski’s said it is also hiring additional workers to keep stores stocked and cleaned.

Cub Foods is restricting many stores to 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. operations, although 13 stores will remain open around the clock. The grocery chain is asking customers to leave the first hour of operations to elderly shoppers and people with high-risk conditions, as well as public safety personnel.

“We ask that all others wait to shop until after 7 a.m. to help keep everyone safe,” the grocery chain said in a statement.

Lunds & Byerlys stores are now open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. The first hour of each day is reserved for shoppers who are at higher risk of severe illness from the new coronavirus.

Hy-Vee also said it has reduced store hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and will urge most customers to shop in person if possible, so delivery services can be reserved for those shoppers who need it most. Hy-Vee is also discouraging customers from bringing in reusable bags because it’s too hard to make sure they are clean, the grocery chain says.

The Iowa-based company says it’s planning to install temporary window panels at checkouts where customers, cashiers and other store employees come in closest contact. Panels are in place in Des Moines stores and are coming to others in the next few days.

The Minnesota Grocers Association president Jamie Pfuhl said the state has classified food distribution workers, like clerks and stockers, as emergency workers.

“Which is incredibly important, as we are working on the front lines so we are able to get food into our neighborhoods," Pfuhl said.

Richfield-based Best Buy is reducing store hours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Beginning Monday and lasting for at least the next two weeks, the electronics retailer will also limit how many people are allowed inside stores to fewer than 15 people.

“Customers will be escorted by an employee, maintaining the recommended social distancing separation of 6 feet and following the official guidance to not allow clusters of 10 or more people,” the company said.

Both Best Buy and Target say they are giving employees up to two weeks of sick pay to encourage ill workers to stay home.

The Minnesota Board of Cosmetology also said Tuesday night that the emergency order by Gov. Tim Walz closing restaurants, bars and gyms to in-person service also applies to nail and hair salons. Board director Gina Fast says that applies to nearly 5,300 salons and 33,400 personal licenses across Minnesota.

As for online shopping: Amazon says it is cutting back on fulfillment of online, third-party seller shipments to focus on staple goods, medical supplies and other high-demand products.

MPR News’ Nancy Lebens contributed to this story.

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