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Jun 01, 2020
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As more stores reopen after temporarily closing due to the coronavirus pandemic, some are setting aside time for their most vulnerable customers to shop.

Similar to what grocery stores and essential retailers started in March to help older adults and people with underlying health conditions, retailers including Kohl’s, J.C. Penney, T.J. Maxx, HomeGoods and Ross are opening earlier for senior shoppers and other at-risk groups.

In addition to adding the dedicated time for seniors to shop, stores are opening with reduced hours compared to pre-COVID-19.

Kohl's is operating on reduced hours from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and has added curbside pickup to stores. It also has one hour a week on Wednesday mornings for seniors, those who are pregnant or with underlying health conditions to shop.

"Everything we're doing, we're doing in a very measured and paced way.” Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass said in an interview with USA TODAY. “We're really going to gauge customer response, our associate feedback and determine, when and if we extend our shopping hours.”

J.C. Penney, which filed for bankruptcy May 15 and plans to permanently close 242 stores with store liquidation sales starting soon, says it has "designated shopping hours for our at-risk customers at all reopened stores on Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to noon."

At-risk customers include senior citizens, expectant mothers and those with underlying health concerns, the retailer said.

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Sara Skirboll, a shopping and trends expert at RetailMeNot, said she hopes stores will continue to offer special hours for seniors and other immunocompromised shoppers. She also suggests they take advantage of curbside pickup or delivery to avoid crowds and shopping at stores like Best Buy, which is currently welcoming back shoppers by appointment.

“For those who need assistance from a sales associate, this is a great way to offer that service without overwhelming shoppers,” Skirboll said.

Reduced store hours: Will we go back to normal?
Some grocery stores have started to expand hours with most keeping senior hours. On May 16, Publix stores expanded its reduced hours to 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and pharmacies returned to regular hours.

But with the expanded hours, the Florida-headquartered grocery chain suspended its twice-weekly reserved shopping hours for seniors 65 and over.

Old Navy reopened its first stores in Texas in early May with shoppers waiting outside of stores before they opened, Old Navy president Nancy Green said, noting they quickly expanded hours to 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

“We'll just keep watching it and seeing where the customer need is and adjust accordingly,” Green said.

While Costco and Walgreens have returned to regular hours, Target and Walmart have not yet returned to pre-COVID hours or announced plans to do so.

Target stores close by 9 p.m. local time and Walmart by 8:30 p.m.

"We’re continuously evaluating each decision we’ve made during our coronavirus response," Target said in a statement to USA TODAY. "Our early store closings is to allow our team members to restock shelves with essential items our guests look for daily, as well as provide us an opportunity to deeply clean our stores."

Walmart officials told USA TODAY that its special shopping hour for seniors and those most vulnerable has been extended. Initially, the designated hour began in March and was set to end in late April but was extended through May and now until further notice.

"As for operating hours, right now our priority is making additional services available (auto care center, vision center, etc.) as it is safe to do so," Walmart said in a statement to USA TODAY. "After that we’ll decide the best approach to expanding hours."

Naveen Jaggi, president of retail advisory services at brokerage firm JLL, told USA TODAY that he doesn't see reduced store hours or senior hours lasting long-term "because retail thrives best when available to everyone.”

“For essential retailers, like grocery stores, I would expect this to continue longer than at discretionary retailers,” Jaggi said.

Jaggi said once normal hours and restrictions on the number of people allowed in stores revert back to pre-COVID-19 levels, he expects “specialized hours for different age demographics to also cease.”

Special shopping time for seniors, at-risk
Hours of special hours can vary by location. Not all stores that closed due to the virus have reopened.

Big Lots: Stores are reserving the first hour of each day for senior citizens and "anyone who is vulnerable to this virus," according to the retailer's COVID-19 page.

BJ's Wholesale Club: Locations open one hour early Monday through Saturday – from 8 to 9 a.m. – for members who are age 60 or older.On Sundays, stores have a dedicated shopping hour from 8 to 9 a.m. for first responders and healthcare workers.

Costco: Most Costco warehouses, which returned to normal hours May 4, have designated an hour every weekday from 9 to 10 a.m. only for members ages 60 and older or with disabilities. Guests will not be admitted, Costco said on its COVID-19 updates page, which lists hours of stores with different senior hours.

CVS: Most stores are open every Wednesday from 9 to 10 a.m. for at-risk customers. CVS says on its website that vulnerable customers include people 60 or older, pregnant women and others defined by the CDC as vulnerable or at-risk.

Dollar General: The first hour daily at the company's more than 16,000 stores in 44 states is reserved for senior shoppers.

Dollar Tree: The discount chain says it continues "to dedicate the first shopping hour to our at-risk customers, including senior citizens, individuals with pre-existing health conditions, and pregnant women."

HomeGoods: Some locations will hold dedicated shopping hours for seniors 60-plus and those at greater risk. Check for special hours online. Temporary hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

J.C. Penney: On Wednesdays and Fridays, stores will open from 11 a.m. to noon for seniors, expectant mothers and those with underlying health concerns. The retailer's current store hours are noon to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays.

Kohl's: Once a week on Wednesdays, Kohl's are opening at 10 a.m. to offer one hour of dedicated shopping to seniors, those who are pregnant or with underlying health conditions. Stores also are operating on reduced hours from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Marshalls: The retailer says it will hold dedicated shopping hours at some stores for seniors 60-plus and those who are at greater risk. Check for specific hours online. Temporary hours of 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

Ross: Seniors 55 and older and those with "higher medical risks" can shop Tuesdays 9 to 10 a.m. during designated shopping time.

Sam's Club: The wholesale club has twice-weekly special hours for seniors, people with disabilities and those with compromised immune systems, and a "Shop from Your Car" concierge every Tuesday and Thursday from 7 to 9 a.m.

Target: On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the first hour stores open is "reserved for elderly guests, pregnant women, and those defined by the CDC as vulnerable or at-risk," Target notes on its website. Times vary by location but at most stores the reserved hour is from 8 to 9 a.m.

T.J. Maxx: Some locations will hold dedicated shopping hours for seniors 60-plus and those who are at greater risk. Temporary hours of 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

Walgreens: Until further notice, an hour every Tuesday from 8 to 9 a.m. is reserved for shoppers 55 and older. On the first Tuesday of each month, Walgreens also offers a "Seniors Day" discount.

Walmart: Until further notice, stores host an hour-long early morning senior shopping event every Tuesday, an hour before they open, for customers aged 60 and older and those designated high-risk by the CDC. Walmart also is reserving a pickup window for online orders from 7 to 8 a.m. daily at select pickup store locations, for seniors, high-risk shoppers and first responders.

Senior shopping at grocery stores
Hours can vary by location so check with your closest store before heading out. Additional grocery stores chains may also have dedicated shopping hours for seniors and those the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says are most vulnerable to COVID-19.

Albertsons: From 7 to 9 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursday, the company is reserving time for "those vulnerable shoppers who must leave home to obtain their groceries, unless otherwise locally mandated." Find the full list of Albertsons companies stores here.

Aldi: On Tuesdays and Thursdays, stores open at 8:30 a.m. and "reserve the first hour of business for vulnerable shoppers." The discount grocer said this includes "senior citizens, expectant mothers and those with underlying health concerns."

BI-LO: All Southeastern Grocers stores, including BI-LO, Fresco y Más, Harveys Supermarket and Winn-Dixie, are dedicating an hour for seniors and high-risk customers to shop from 7 to 8 a.m. Monday through Friday.

Fresh Market: The grocer, which has 159 stores in 22 states, is reserving the first hour stores open, from 8 to 9 a.m., for "seniors and those most at risk" Monday through Friday.

Harveys Supermarkets: Stores are dedicating an hour for seniors and high-risk customers to shop from 7 to 8 a.m. Monday through Friday.

Kroger: Hours including senior hours vary at the company's various grocery store chains and are listed at www.kroger.com/i/coronavirus-update/store-information.

Meijer: The retailer reserves two hours on Tuesday and Thursdays from 6 to 8 a.m. for senior citizens and customers with chronic health conditions. It recently lengthened its regular store hours at most locations to 6 a.m. to midnight, instead of the 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. hours it instituted in March.

Publix: When Publix expanded its hours May 16, it suspended its twice-weekly reserved shopping hours for seniors 65 and over. In a statement, Publix said it encourages shoppers who prefer to shop when stores are less crowded to shop during the first hour of the day “when we can better accommodate that need.”

Safeway: From 7 to 9 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursday, the company is reserving time for "those vulnerable shoppers who must leave home to obtain their groceries, unless otherwise locally mandated."

Stop & Shop: The retailer, which has more than 400 stores throughout Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey, is giving shoppers 60 and older or with a weakened immune system, 90 minutes to shop each morning from 6 to 7:30 a.m.,

Trader Joe's: The first hour of daily shopping will be reserved for seniors 60 and over and shoppers with disabilities, which varies by location.

Whole Foods Market: Until further notice, all Whole Foods Market stores in the U.S. and Canada will let customers who are 60 and older shop one hour before opening to the public.

Winn-Dixie: All Southeastern Grocers stores, including BI-LO, Fresco y Más, Harveys Supermarket and Winn-Dixie, are dedicating an hour for seniors and high-risk customers to shop from 7 to 8 a.m. Monday through Friday.

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