Note: This story has been updated with additional information.
In response to the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic some local merchants who remain open are setting aside the first hour they are open each day as a time for seniors to shop, as well as adjusting their store hours to allow more time for restocking and cleaning.
The trend for a senior shopping hour apparently began in European supermarkets, whose customers are currently at the epicenter of the global pandemic.
The purpose for prioritizing the first hour after doors open for seniors is to give them an opportunity to make their purchases immediately after stores have been cleaned and restocked overnight.
The coronavirus has proven to be particularly dangerous to the elderly as well as individuals with weakened immune systems, and panic buying/hoarding by American consumers has stripped shelves bare of essential items in many local supermarkets, leaving some members of those groups without the items they need for daily living.
Fresh Market, which has a store in the Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley in Upper Saucon Township, announced in a Facebook post that it will offer a designated shopping period for “seniors and those most at risk” Monday through Friday from 8 to 9 a.m.
All Fresh Market stores will continue to operate under their regular business hours.
“Despite the uncertainty of this unfolding situation related to coronavirus containment efforts, The Fresh Market is committed to remaining open and well-stocked, while maintaining the highest standards of store cleanliness and safety for our guests and team members,” the company said on Facebook.
Dollar General, which has a store in Hellertown, said on Facebook that it is “strongly encouraging our first hour of operations be dedicated to our senior shoppers.”
“All stores will close an hour earlier in order for employees to clean, restock shelves as well as for their health and wellbeing,” the company added.
The Hellertown Dollar General is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The Giant Company announced late Tuesday afternoon that effective Thursday, March 19 all its stores will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. to give employees more time to restock shelves and clean. Also, the company said each day from 6 to 7 a.m. will be reserved as a special shopping period for individuals who are 60 and older. The company also said it is limiting products in certain “key categories” to two per purchase and hopes to hire additional employees for its stores.
Weis Markets announced on Facebook that starting Tuesday starting all stores will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“This change will give our store teams additional time to restock the shelves and clean and sanitize our stores,” the company said. “As part of our COVID-19 prevention program, we have increased the time we devote each day to cleaning and disinfecting our stores including high contact areas such as our cash registers, self-scan units, credit-debit terminals, fuel pumps, shopping carts and baskets.
Weis has temporarily shut down its salad, hot food and soup bars as a precaution and halted the sale of all loose bakery products, which are available prepackaged.
Wegmans and other grocery chains have adopted similar mesaures in recent days due to the coronavirus outbreak, and some stores–such as Wegmans–have introduced purchase limits for certain items such as bread.
Aldi announced Monday that all of its stores nationwide will now be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
“Some stores may have limited hours to accommodate restocking and cleaning,” the company said on Facebook.
Lidl, another German grocery store chain with a local presence, said all of its stores will now be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. until further notice.
“This temporary reduction in store hours will give our team members extra time to work diligently to restock our shelves, clean our stores and recharge during these busy times,” the company said in a Facebook post. “We will return to our regular hours as soon as we can.”
Local market and butcher shop Saylor’s & Co., which is located in Hellertown, has also announced that it is now offering curbside pickup of groceries.
“Please call ahead with your grocery list prepped and simply call us again upon your arrival,” owners Tim Mease and Maria Verzino said in a Facebook post Monday. “Please use our parking lot or Thomas St to wait for groceries to be delivered to your car.”
Please note that hours and other information included in this story may change in the future. Call the store you plan to visit ahead of time to verify their hours of operation and any other changes related to the outbreak which may have gone into effect.