Stores in Virginia set up senior shopping hours amid coronavirus fears

The idea has worked in smaller stores but backfired in some larger stores
Roberta Miller
Posted at 5:49 AM, Mar 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-20 08:42:57-04

RICHMOND, Va. - Grocery store chains and other retailers are easing the fears of senior citizens over the coronavirus by reserving shopping times exclusively for them.

Target, Walmart, Whole Foods, Dollar General and supermarkets in Europe began dedicating early morning shopping times for older customers this week.

The theory is that allowing seniors to shop among smaller crowds could reduce their chances of acquiring the virus and give them first crack at buying hand sanitizer and other products that have been hard to find because of panic shopping.

The idea has worked well in smaller stores but backfired in some larger stores, where big crowds showed up.

Here is a list of stores offering exlusive senior-shopper hours:

Big Lots is reserving the first hour of each day for senior citizens and “those most vulnerable to this virus,” CEO Bruce Thorn said in an email.

Dollar General is dedicating the first hour to help senior shoppers "avoid busier and more crowded shopping periods." The retailer said in a tweet that it wasn't "qualifying a specific age" for the set-aside time.

Fresh Market is reserving the first hour stores open, from 8 to 9 a.m., for "seniors and those most at risk" Monday through Friday.

Giant Food starting March 20, the chain with stores in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia and Delaware will offer "dedicated shopping hours for senior citizens 60-and-older and individuals with compromised immune systems." The dedicated time is from 6 to 7 a.m. "every day of the week for this vulnerable population to shop and practice social distancing."

Publix: Starting March 24 and until further notice, Publix is designating Tuesday and Wednesday mornings from 7 to 8 a.m. for seniors 65 and over, the company said Thursday. Pharmacies also will open at 7 a.m. "Tuesdays and Wednesdays to serve our senior population," the Florida-based retailer said.

Safeway, from 7 to 9 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday, the company is reserving time for "those vulnerable shoppers who must leave home to obtain their groceries, unless otherwise locally mandated."

Target starting Wednesday, says they will "reserve the first hour of shopping each Wednesday at stores nationwide for vulnerable guests," adding it is "encouraging other guests to plan their shopping trips around this time frame."

Walmart from March 24 through April 28, Walmart stores will host an hour-long senior shopping event every Tuesday for customers 60 and older, which will start one hour before stores open. Checking IDs is at the store's discretion, Walmart told USA TODAY.

Whole Foods Market starting Wednesday, will let customers who are 60 and older shop one hour before opening to the public.