Like most of you, we in the grocery industry long for a return to normalcy, particularly this holiday shopping season. Providing a clean and safe shopping environment has always been a part of our business plan. But COVID-19, and the safety protocols and restrictions resulting from it, have impacted each of us in ways we’ve never dreamed.
Even so, we are all doing our absolute best to operate safely under the newest conditions.
As essential businesses, we are committed to providing a safe and hospitable shopping experience for you and for our employees. Right now, grocery stores, convenience stores and suppliers are being asked to carry the enormous responsibility of providing food and essential products to communities. From your favorite holiday foods to everyday staples, I can honestly say our supply chains are strong and our people are working diligently to keep shelves stocked.
As a store manager, I can attest to implementing multiple safety protocols to help fight the spread of COVID. This ranges from conducting regular and frequent sanitizing to providing shoppers with hand sanitizer, installing checkstand partitions and instituting shopping aisle flow restrictions, among other restrictions. In short, we are doing everything we can to remain open, keep our employees working and provide shoppers with access to our store.
I know I can safely speak for my colleagues in the grocery industry by saying we are working diligently to meet the needs of all shoppers right now. By that same token, we are also working equally hard to protect the health and safety of our grocery workers. From Day 1 of this outbreak, they have continued to show up, work hard and meet the needs of customers. We are sincerely grateful for them and the difficult job they have as essential workers in this pandemic.
Unfortunately, sometimes our employees bear the brunt of customers’ frustration and anger. I consider my employees to be a part of my family, and I am concerned daily for their health and well-being. Please do not take your frustrations with the pandemic out on my employees. They are not trying to make your life difficult – quite the contrary, in fact.
From a business perspective, operating during COVID remains a tenuous situation. The grocery industry is notoriously low profit. Right now, most small grocers and convenience stores are struggling to stay afloat. Margins in grocery stores are traditionally thin – about 1% . These days, it’s about half that.
The other challenge we face right now is the threat of fines. Stores can receive penalties up to $9,600 for each occurrence of noncompliance. At smaller grocery stores or convenience stores, this can be a significant financial hit. We continue to do our best in terms of compliance and would ask customers for their understanding and assistance as we all navigate this pandemic together.
Please, help us this holiday season: Wear a mask, observe social distancing and stay home when you are sick.
Working together, we can shop and work safely this holiday season and every season thereafter.
Matt Grittner is the store director of My Fresh Basket.
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