While communities across the world grapple the COVID-19 pandemic, grocery stores are feeling the heat when it comes to keeping stores stocked, clean and staffed.
Giant Eagle, which is headquartered in Pittsburgh and has locations across Northeast and Central Ohio, is working to make sure it’s ready for whatever customers need, according to corporate spokesperson Dan Donovan.
“What we want our guests to know is that Giant Eagle is here, Giant Eagle is open and we will continue to be open for the days, weeks and months to come,” Donovan said. “When you visit our stores, you might not see what you need at the moment, so here is what we’re asking: We’re asking you trust us and that you know just because the product is not here in your store at this exact moment, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”
One change implemented March 23 is the stores are offering special hours for seniors and other vulnerable people, including those 60 and older, differently abled and immunocompromised. The food retailer opens its doors an hour earlier at 6 a.m., Mondays through Wednesdays, to provide a “comfortable shopping opportunity” for those customer groups.
Additionally, the store has made changes to promote social distancing, like installing plexiglass at registers, signage and more.
Most recently on March 31, the store announced it would temporarily convert its supermarket on Howe Avenue in Cuyahoga Falls to a fulfillment center for curbside pickup and delivery. The change helps the company increase the number of curbside pickup and delivery orders fulfilled for Akron and Canton area customers, according to a news release.
Donovan said every store is getting daily truck deliveries to keep up with demand. During a visit to a Giant Eagle store March 18, the shelves were, for the most part, stocked, with moderate sparseness in the toilet paper, cleaning product and meat aisles.
Jannah Jablonowski, another corporate spokesperson, said the only specific products the stores are having trouble keeping stocked are items like toilet paper, cleaning products, milk, eggs and bread. But for items like kosher products, it’s just a matter of getting them into stores.
Giant Eagle also partnered with Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse to provide temporary employment to the arena’s staff. Jablonowski also said stores are getting “creative” with their resources.
“We have service departments in the store – like bakery and meat, different places like that which typically have team members staffing those needs behind the scenes – we’ve temporarily closed those service departments, and (are) saying we now need those team members to help stock and get those essential items on shelves,” she said. “It’s just a matter of all hands on deck.”
Jablonowski said shoppers have generally responded “really positively because everyone understands that we’re in this together.”
“This isn’t something affecting one retailer or one population, or anything like that,” she explained. “It’s something we’re aware of and everyone is a little worried about. We want to communicate to our guests that we are a local company and family-owned. Though we do have a little bit of a larger reach than smaller local retailers, we really do take that same care in investing in the community and working together to get through this.”
Jablonowski said Giant Eagle is prepared for whatever may happen. The retailer has already announced four employees, all at different stores, tested positive for COVID-19. And in a transparency effort, Giant Eagle is sharing that information and concurrent cleaning efforts at gianteagle.com/store-cleansing.
“Like many retailers, you plan for events where demand is going to increase,” she said. “Isolated stock-up events aren’t something that is necessarily new to us. So, if nothing else, this will certainly be a great learning experience if something similar happens in the future. If it does, we will at least have more of a blueprint in place.”