Walmart is resuming measurement of consumers in its shops
Customers shop at a Walmart store on May 19, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. Walmart reported a 74% increase in online sales in the US for the quarter ended April 30, and sales in the same store 10% increase over the same period that the effects of the coronavirus contributed to the increase in sales.
Scott Olson | Getty Images
Walmart will begin monitoring and counting the number of customers entering its stores starting Saturday to ensure capacity is not exceeded as coronavirus cases rise at record rates across the country.
As of April, Walmart has limited the number of employees in its big box stores to no more than five customers per about 1,000 square feet, or about 20% of a store’s capacity. These levels can also vary based on local mandates, the company said.
For a time, however, the largest retailer in the United States had stopped physically counting people as they walked in and out.
“We know from months of metrics in our stores that most of our stores haven’t reached our self-imposed measurement capacity of 20%,” a Walmart spokesperson told CNBC in a statement it emailed. “As a precaution, we have counted the number of people entering and leaving our stores again.”
The move comes as America continues to set new Covid records. According to data from the COVID Tracking Project run by journalists in the Atlantic, more than 68,500 are hospitalized with Covid-19 nationwide, more than at any other time during the pandemic.
And the cases keep increasing. For the past seven days, the US has reported an average of over 139,900 cases per day, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, up more than 35% from a week. The 7-day average of new cases every day has hit a new record every day for at least ten days, Hopkins data shows.
Large grocery chains have now started to reintroduce shopping restrictions on certain items such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer. In the spring, when the pandemic hit the US, desperate consumers flocked to stores, stocking them up, and leaving shelves sterile with staple foods like canned beans and frozen vegetables. The industry called the reaction “panic buying”. Many retailers were unprepared for the surge in necessities spending.
Publix Super Markets, based in Kroger and Florida, reintroduced restrictions on buying bath towels and paper towels earlier this month.
Giant Food, an American supermarket chain with locations in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, is again restricting the purchase of toilet paper and paper towels.
Wegmans has set limits on paper towels, household cleaners and disinfectant wipes.
Retailers and grocers are now having to navigate the pandemic during the holiday season, which is causing more people to come to stores to buy gifts and ingredients for family dinners.
To spread customer vacation visits, Walmart has announced it will continue to have Black Friday sales in store, but the company is splitting them into three different sales events.
– CNBC’s Will Feuer contributed to this story.