Kroger to limit number of people in stores, test one-way aisles

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CINCINNATI – JULY 15: A sign identifies the Kroger Co. corporate headquarters July 15, 2008 in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. Kroger is one of the nation’s largest grocery retailers, with fiscal 2007 sales of over $70 billion. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK — The one-way aisle is the latest traffic-control measure to be implemented by US grocery retailers to encourage physical distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Kroger, the nation’s largest supermarket operator, is testing one-way aisles at stores in certain markets to determine their effectiveness in providing appropriate distancing between customers, according to a statement releasedMonday.

Retailers such as Hy-Vee and Walmart have made similar moves, according to a report from industry news source Grocery Dive, which noted that in places like Connecticut, one-way aisles are mandated as emergency regulations.

“We expect this to help more customers avoid coming into close contact with others as they shop,” Dacona Smith, Walmart US’ executive vice president and chief operating officer, wrote in an April 3 announcement.

The efforts to direct in-store shopping flow are part of a growing slew of measures put in place by retailers in recent weeks to help protect both employees and shoppers. Essential businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies have installed plexiglass partitions at checkouts, designated shopping hours for older and immune-compromised individuals, installed distancing decals and signage, and started to meter store traffic.

Starting Tuesday, Kroger will reduce its store capacity by 50% to limit the number of customers who are shopping at the same time.

“By leveraging QueVision, our technology system that uses infrared sensors and predictive analytics, we will be able to more efficiently support our new capacity limits, creating a safer environment for our customers and associates,” Yael Cosset, Kroger’s chief technology and digital officer, said in the announcement.

Kroger is encouraging employees to wear protective masks and gloves. The grocer said it has ordered masks for its US workforce and also plans to expand employee temperature checks to stores.

A Kroger spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment.

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