Target pauses plans for grocery pickup amid COVID-19 outbreak


Target is pausing its plans to offer curbside pick-up of groceries and alcoholic beverages, citing the COVID-19 outbreak as the key factor in its decision to delay the launch. Although groceries via Order Pickup and Drive Up would be valuable services at a time when people are being asked to distance themselves from others to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, Target says it won’t have time to train employees on these new processes right now.

Like many retailers and grocers, Target is impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, which is significantly changing the way people shop. People are more likely to buy in bulk to minimize trips to the store. And many are panic-buying critical supplies, like toilet paper. Target says it’s seen a sustained surge in both traffic and sales, particularly in food and beverage and other household essentials, like cleaning supplies and baby products. Other categories, including apparel and accessories, have slowed.

The launch of any new system or process takes time to adjust to, even when there’s ample time to train. But Target staff today is working at increased levels — its March sales are 20% higher than March of last year, as a  point of comparison.

Like everywhere, Target also faces staffing concerns as people scramble to figure out childcare when schools are closed. It will have to reassess employee schedules on the fly, as staff leaves unexpectedly when they or a family member gets sick. There have also been a small number of cases where Target employees themselves have tested positive for the virus. And as the outbreak spreads, more will likely be exposed, given their continual contact with the public.

To address these concerns, Target is cleaning its stores regularly, promoting social distancing, wiping down carts, adding signage to guide guests, cleaning checklanes after each transaction, and more. It’s also stopping in-store returns for three weeks, but will honor later returns when the ban is lifted, as a result. And it’s pausing its small-format store openings and remodels planned for this year — shifting those to 2021, given the chaos around its business today.

To assist employees, Target announced that it’s investing more than $300 million in added wages, a new paid leave program, bonus payouts and relief fund contributions.

Though Target won’t roll out curbside fresh grocery pickup now, it continues to operate the grocery delivery business Shipt. This and other grocery delivery services are booming due to the outbreak. Instacart this week said it was hiring 300,000 more full-service shoppers due to coronavirus. Walmart, CVS, Amazon, and other U.S. employers are hiring more than 800,000 new workers due to the COVID-19 impacts.





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