Retailers large and small are implementing this new traffic pattern because traditional grocery aisles are too narrow to allow for the proper 6 feet of social distancing. Hy-Vee is placing new, one-way directional signage in its aisles that will be installed in all stores, along with a request for one person per cart in the store. The stores’ signage will direct customers to use aisles in a way that prevents them from passing each other. DeCicco & Sons, with eight stores in Westchester County, N.Y., also is converting its aisles to one direction.
Kroger also announced plans to test one direction aisles in some of its stores, and Walmart also announced over the weekend it was changing its stores to one direction after testing the concept in the United Kingdom and Canada.Industry experts have long bemoaned the setup of the center store by forcing customers into tunnel-like aisles. Maybe this pandemic will have the added outcome of forcing retailers to rethink the setup of the center store aisles into something that is actually enjoyable to shop.
The U.S. grocery industry workforce includes many thousands of teens, who are balancing suddenly essential part-time jobs with school—and seeing their lives impacted in other ways by COVID-19.
In Palm Bay, Fla., for example, the high school prom has been canceled. But workers at a Winn-Dixie store there made sure their co-workers who would have attended didn’t miss all the pageantry. They pitched in to surprise them with corsages, boutonnieres and a special prom photo booth at their store.
How great is that? Thanks to Winn-Dixie for the pics, and to the workers for taking care of their communities and one another.
While the onset of the coronavirus pandemic drove huge initial demand, for some retailers, the gains could be short-lived, costly and complicated.
The company said both banners are facing merchandise mix pressure to gross margin rates in the quarter. And costs are expected to be higher than previously anticipated, including investments in pay and benefits, distribution and transportation related to the demand volume increase in consumables, and the additional hours dedicated to enhanced cleaning protocol in stores, distribution centers and its store support center.
The Ultimate Proving Ground
This might not have been the way it would have chosen to demonstrate it, but the COVID-19 crisis could prove the thesis behind United Natural Foods Inc.’s (UNFI) eventful pursuit of rival Supervalu—and emphatically so.
From the start, officials of the Providence, R.I.-based natural foods distributor had argued that the $2.9 billion acquisition of its larger conventional counterpart—announced in 2018—would set it up to serve an industry that would demand more stuff from fewer suppliers, and favor those that could handle that kind of volume nationally. And in distribution, more volume means better economics, better economics means better pricing, which means more volume. It’s how it was meant to work.
UNFI has taken plenty of lumps along with the deal. It tangled with its own financial adviser on how the deal got funded, it discovered Supervalu had more issues going in than it knew, it hasn’t sold off Supervalu’s retail stores as quickly or for as much as it might have wanted, and its performance last year missed expectations so badly out of the gate officials walked back financial projections they’d made only months earlier.
Barclays analyst Karen Short, who hosted UNFI officials in a recent call, in a research note this week indicates UNFI believes the crisis is bringing with the ultimate proving ground for its thesis. Its natural food customers are buying more conventional, and vice versa, and retailers are using UNFI’s efficient national footprint to move product throughout the country. Officials also believe they are in for a prolonged shift in demand for food-at-home—12 to 24 months—as it expects the virus, as it travels, could lead to additional demand “humps” over time.
Onfleet Launches Free Job Board to Connect Delivery Drivers With Companies That Need Help Meeting Demand
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, last-mile delivery management software startup Onfleet has rolled out a free job board to connect delivery drivers looking for work with companies that need delivery help.
“COVID-19 continues to disrupt communities around the world in unprecedented ways,” said Khaled Naim, co-founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Onfleet. “As we examined the impact across Onfleet’s customer base, we noticed that some of our customers were struggling to expand fast enough to meet an unexpected surge in demand, while others unfortunately had to let drivers go because demand declined in their industry. So we decided to create an easy way to connect drivers and hiring companies.”
Onfleet’s free job board allows drivers to sign up to deliver for companies in their area or browse jobs posted by companies. Similarly, companies can post jobs or browse through drivers in their area who are available to work.
“We hope this becomes a valuable resource for drivers and employers,” said Naim, who noted that in the first few hours after the board launched, a dozen companies had already listed openings.