Grocery stores and other retailers trim hours and limit purchases

Coronavirus sign on store

Grocery stores nationwide are curtailing hours to deep clean and restock shelves emptied by consumers’ coronavirus-induced panic-buying of staples like bottled water and toilet paper.

Empty store shelves at a Walmart following coronavirus-induced panic buying. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Meanwhile, high-touch retailers Nike and Lululemon joined Apple in shuttering their stores for several weeks to see how high the infection rate rises.

“The well-being of our teammates and consumers is our top priority so we have decided to close our stores in multiple countries around the world including in the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand,” Nike said in a statement.

The National Retailers Federation said it may be several months before it will be possible to assess the economic impact of the virus, according to spokeswoman Mary McGinty.

Urban Outfitters, Inc. (NASDAQ:URBN) said it is closing all of its 600 stores globally until March 28. Its brands include Anthropologie, BHLDN, Free People, Terrain, Urban Outfitters and Nuuly brands as well as a food and beverage division.

“We will continue to pay our store teams during this time,” the company said in a statement issued on March 14. “We will continue to operate our e-commerce and subscription businesses.”

Trucks that deliver essential goods have been granted a 50-state exemption from hours-of-service (HOS) rules in order to deliver equipment and supplies of food for the emergency restocking of stores.

According to USA Today, numerous grocery stores are curtailing hours. 

Walmart, the world’s largest retailer said late on March 14 that it would be temporarily open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. beginning today, March 15, instead of normal 24-hour operations at some locations. Other Walmart stores also will reduce hours.

Florida-based Publix, New York-based Wegmans and Texas-based H-E-B are among retailers closing earlier.

Kroger, the largest U.S. supermarket chain, said it was adjusting store operating hours in some areas “based on local circumstances.” The Cincinnati-based grocer said on its website that it is focused on remaining open with clean and stocked stores.

“Retailers expect to experience disruptions as the virus spreads, but it’s still too early to determine the full impact,” said McGinty. “As consumers may start to shop less in stores, retailers have robust e-commerce capabilities and will continue to meet the needs of consumers.”