COVID-19: US retailers respond to record growth in cases

Stewart Samuel
Program Director - Canada

Date : 16 November 2020

With over 1m new cases reported in the US over the past six days, several retailers are reactivating their COVID-19 playbooks with capacity and product limits.

Precautionary measures

The US continues to experience a rapid growth in COVID-19 cases, with many states reporting their highest new case levels since the start of the pandemic. Although there have not been any signs of a repeat in the surge in demand which characterised the initial phase earlier this year, several retailers are taking precautionary measures.

Source: Walmart

Capacity and product quantity limits

These include Walmart, which has started to monitor and count customer numbers to ensure that its stores do not exceed 20% of their capacity. Other retailers including Kroger, Ahold Delhaize and Publix, are reported to have reinstated product quantity limits on key items such as toilet paper, wipes and cleaners.

Creating new ways to celebrate this year

The rise in cases comes as the market builds towards its most significant trading period, starting with Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday later this month. Most major retailers have started to offer their Black Friday deals, in-store and online, to manage the flow of customers into their stores. Most consumers are expected to participate in smaller, home-based gatherings this year, a trend which is set to extend into the Christmas holidays.

Adjusting their product offers

Retailers have been adjusting their product offers in response, including offering more easy meal and entertaining solutions and helping consumers to be creative with their home decorating. Several of the other COVID-19 driven trends, including more frequent home cleaning, more snacking at home and undertaking home baking as a family, will also be accelerated during the holidays. Retailers have also been preparing for a return to stronger ecommerce growth, adding more capacity and ensuring the robustness of their systems during this critical period. 

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