• Retail Dive

Walmart limits store traffic to 5 customers per 1K square feet

PUBLISHED April 6, 2020

Dive Brief:

  • Walmart has joined Target in limiting customer traffic in its stores.

  • In a corporate post on Friday, the retail giant said that effective Saturday it would not allow more than five customers per 1,000 square feet in its stores at any time, which would represent about 20% of its store capacity.

  • To do that, Walmart staff will set up a queue at the door. Once stores reach capacity, customers will be allowed in on a "1-out-1-in" basis. In many stores, Walmart will use floor markers to create one-way movement as part of its effort to encourage social distancing.

Dive Insight:

Walmart, like Target, Costco, drugstores and other retailers of essential consumer goods, has seen sales surge as customers stock up amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Their stores play a vital role for customers — but they are also potential vectors of the disease as they stay open while discretionary retail as a group shutters tens of thousands of stores.

Walmart and Target have responded by limiting consumer traffic. "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," Walmart U.S. COO Dacona Smith said in the company's post. "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."

In one state, Vermont, big-box retailers including Target, Walmart and Costco, were ordered to stop selling "non-essential" items in their stores, including arts and crafts, beauty, clothing, consumer electronics, entertainment, home goods, jewelry, sports equipment, toys and other product categories. The state placed those restrictions to reduce traffic to those stores.

After a surge in the early weeks of March, traffic had already dropped at Walmart's stores, as well as those of Target, Costco and scores of others, according to foot traffic analytics firm Placer.ai. According to a tracker developed by Placer.ai, traffic at Walmart's superstores was down 24% as of March 30.

As COVID-19 has spread through the U.S., Walmart has also expanded its paid leave policies, reduced hours at stores to restock and clean, installed sneeze guards, conducted temperature checks for employees, and made masks and globes available for employees "as supplies permit."

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