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Walmart limiting the number of customers in stores due to coronavirus outbreak

Stores will now allow no more than five customers for every 1,000 square feet at a given time, roughly 20% of a store’s capacity.

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — To promote health, safety and consistency for associates and customers in this environment, Walmart is taking some further steps for U.S. stores:

Regulating Store Entry

Starting Saturday (April 4), Walmart will limit the number of customers who can be in a store at once. Stores will now allow no more than five customers for every 1,000 square feet at a given time, roughly 20% of a store’s capacity.

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. 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.

Shopping Inside the Store

The company is also instituting a one-way movement through the aisles next week in a number of our stores, using floor markers and direction from associates. They expect this to help more customers avoid coming into close contact with others as they shop.

The company will continue to put signage inside stores to remind customers of the need to maintain social distancing – especially in lines. And once customers check out, they will be directed to exit through a different door than they entered, which should help lessen the instances of people closely passing each other.

As the COVID-19 situation continues to develop, Walmart leaders and operations teams will continue to listen to advice from medical experts, associates and customers, and consider how they can best serve people while helping slow the spread of the virus. 

Walmart Neighborhood Markets are an average of 42,000 square feet, which would allow 210 people in the store at one time. 

Single mother Ashley Spoon says this new policy will give her less time in her day.

“I’ll have to try to get everything done in the timeframe before having to pick them up from daycare,” Spoon said.

For those with certain health conditions like Patricia Neely, who has arthritis and a heart condition, being on their feet for too long can cause their legs to give out. This means she sometimes needs assistance while shopping. 

“I will not be able to stand in line for long periods of time so I’ll probably just have to come back home,” Neely said. 

Neely says getting groceries will now be even more of a challenge.

“If I have to have groceries, I’ll have to call for help from the people that live with me, or I’ll have to rely on my sister and my brother,” she said.

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Walmart U.S. Dacona Smith released the following statement saying in part:

"In this taxing and uncertain time, our associates have gone above and beyond to help Americans get the food, medicine and supplies they need.

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.

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."

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