Most national grocery store chains are designating special hours strictly for seniors and other shoppers who are vulnerable to serious illness from the coronavirus pandemic. Big, all-purpose retailers like Target, Walmart, and Costco are devoting special times when stores are open just for seniors as well.
In most states, supermarkets and drugstores are among the few kinds of stores that remain open to serve the public during the coronavirus crisis. Many national chains have adjusted store hours to allow workers more time to clean stores and restock shelves, while online grocery delivery services have struggled to keep up with dramatically increased demand.
Most experts say that grocery shopping is safe for the most part, if you're careful. Still, heading to the grocery store is obviously not as safe as staying home and maintaining as much distance as possible from others. That's especially worrisome to those at higher risk of severe implications from COVID-19, including seniors and people with compromised immune systems.
In response, major retailers like Target, Walmart, and Costco, as well as national grocery store chains such as Albertsons, Kroger, Publix, and Whole Foods, are reserving special shopping hours for these at-risk shoppers. As the days pass and confirmed cases of coronavirus increase in the U.S., more and more stores are introducing or expanding senior shopping hours. Many stores are limiting the number of shoppers allowed inside at any given time, as well.
Target first offered special shopping hours once a week, reserving the first hour of every Wednesday strictly for "vulnerable guests, including the elderly and those with underlying health concerns." Starting on Tuesday, March 31, these shoppers have exclusive access to Target stores twice a week, as the first hour of every Tuesday will also be available to them, Target CEO Brian Cornell said in a statement. "Our partners at CVS will have their pharmacy locations open during that time as well," Cornell also said.
In some parts of the country, local regulations may supersede retailers' national policies — meaning that stores could be required to offer senior shopping hours every day of the week. In Massachusetts, for example, a public health order now requires grocery stores and pharmacies to offer senior hours daily — specifically "at least one hour every day in the early morning, for adults 60 and older in order to limit their potential exposure."
Senior shopping hours are not available at all grocery stores, however. Wegmans, for example, has changed stored hours in some locations, but it says it is not setting aside special hours for at-risk shoppers because its "stores are continually being cleaned and sanitized – we feel they are clean all the time, not solely when they open." What's more, Wegmans questions the wisdom of senior shopping hours in general: "We do not believe putting an entire population of highly susceptible people together in one location, at one time is a good idea."
Wegmans seems to be in the minority on this issue, however, as you can see below. As of Monday, April 6, here are all the major grocery stores, warehouse clubs, dollar stores, and drugstore chains offering special store hours and services for seniors and other at-risk customers.
BJ's Wholesale Club stores are open one hour early daily — from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. — for warehouse club members ages 60 and older. Also, starting Sunday, April 19, first responders get a special "Appreciation Hour" at BJ's: From 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. every Sunday, first responders and health care workers are welcomed to shop in the chain's stores with no membership required.
Every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., Costco stores are reserved for members who are 60 and over or who have physical disabilities. Starting on Monday, May 4, most Costco stores go back to regular store hours, and seniors and shoppers with disabilities will have exclusive access to shop from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. daily, Monday through Friday.
The first hour of shopping at Target every Tuesday and Wednesday will be reserved for vulnerable customers, "including the elderly and those with underlying health concerns." All Target stores will close by 9 p.m. daily as well.
Sam's Club stores are open two hours early — from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. — every Tuesday and Thursday strictly for members who are seniors or have disabilities or compromised immune systems. Qualifying members have the choice to go shopping inside stores during these special hours, or to place orders from their cars in a designated parking location outside the store and have their goods picked out by a Sam's Club worker.
Now through April 28 at least, Walmart stores will be open one hour early every Tuesday for customers age 60 and over. Most Walmart store hours begin at 7 a.m. daily nowadays, in which case the store would be open from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. on Tuesday strictly for older shoppers.
Senior Shopping Hours at Other Grocery Stores
Albertsons is requiring that all of its grocery brands, which include Safeway, Shaws, Vons, Acme, and the flagship Albertsons supermarkets, open stores at a minimum every Tuesday and Thursday from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. strictly for vulnerable shoppers, including "senior citizens and other at-risk populations, such as pregnant women or those with compromised immune systems, who have been advised to avoid leaving home as much as possible."
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Aldi stores will open at 8:30 a.m. and reserve the first hour for senior citizens, pregnant women, and other vulnerable shoppers.
The first hour of shopping at Big Lots stores is being reserved for senior citizens and all other vulnerable customers.
Big Y, a grocery chain with locations in Massachusetts and Connecticut, is reserving 7 a.m to 8 a.m. daily for customers who are 60 and older, or who have compromised immune systems.
BI-LO and other supermarkets owned by the Southeastern Grocers company, including Harveys and Winn-Dixie, have designated shopping hours for seniors and high-risk customers from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday.
The first hour that Dollar General stores are open is being reserved for seniors and other at-risk shoppers.
Giant Food stores are being reserved for senior shoppers and customers with compromised immune systems from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. daily.
Hy-Vee grocery stores will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. daily strictly for customers who are 60 and older, expectant mothers, and others with health conditions that make them susceptible to serious illness.
Kroger, whose grocery retail brands include Ralphs, City Market, Fred Meyer, Harris Teeter, King Sooper, and its flagship Kroger stores, has exclusive hours for seniors ages 60 and older in most locations. Special senior hours vary by brand and store location, but are typically 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. from Monday to Thursday. Check your local store for hours.
Market Basket stores are reserved for senior shoppers (60 and over) from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. daily.
Price Chopper stores are reserved for seniors and customers with compromised immune systems from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. daily.
Publix stores are open from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. every Tuesday and Wednesday for customers ages 65 and older.
ShopRite senior shopping hours and policies vary by location. The chain says that some locations are "reserving special shopping hours, while others are establishing separate checkout stations to accommodate the elderly and high-risk individuals." Check your local store's social media page for more information.
Access to Stop & Shop stores is reserved for seniors and customers with compromised immune systems from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. daily.
As of March 30, Trader Joe's is reserving the first hour of every day at its stores — either 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., or 9 a.m. to 10 a.m, depending on location — for "our senior customers over the age of 60 and customers with disabilities who may need additional assistance while shopping."
All Whole Foods stores in the U.S. and Canada are open to customers ages 60 and up one hour before opening to the general public. So if your Whole Foods normally opens at 9 a.m., it will be open starting at 8 a.m. for older shoppers.
Do CVS, Walgreens, and Other Drugstores Have Senior Hours?
Major drugstore chains like CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens are all taking steps to address concerns about coronavirus, including increased availability of free shipping for online purchases and drive-thru and curbside pickup for online orders. But of these pharmacies, at least for the time being only Walgreens is reserving special hours for senior shoppers.
Walgreens stores are offering seniors-only shopping from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. every Tuesday. The same senior shopping hours are also available at Duane Reade, which is owned by Walgreens.
Walgreens has also adjusted store hours too. In many locations — even those normally open 24 hours a day — Walgreens store hours are now 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
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