Natural grocers have emerged as some of the heroes at the forefront of the COVID-19 crisis. And not just for their ongoing dedication to promoting health and wellness through the products they stock, but also for the measures they have taken to keep shelves stocked, customers and employees safe and to make the grocery shopping experience—one that can be fraught with anxiety in these uncertain times—go as smoothly as possible.
Some of the proactive initiatives that have emerged thus far have included limiting store occupancy, implementing purchase limits on in-demand items, requiring customers keep a minimum distance of 6 feet from others and designating special morning hours for the elderly and other vulnerable members of the population.
Shoppers can now opt for curbside pickup, or even delivery, from some stores, while barriers for cashiers, temperature monitoring for employees, credit-only payments—or via contact-less smart phone payment platforms—one-way aisle traffic and the mandatory use of non-medical masks help protect shoppers and employees alike.
And although many of these initiatives are now widespread, stores are still finding new ways to connect with homebound consumers—particularly on social media. This might include sharing recipes, workout tips, nutrition advice and activities for kids, providing instructions for sewing face masks or giving up-to-date information about which products are in stock.
Whatever the case, amid this unprecedented global crisis natural product retailers are working around the clock to foster a sense of community and give people peace of mind. Here are a few inspiring actions undertaken by retailers to make the shopping experience as seamless and stress-free as possible.
Masking made easy
Although many retailers have required the use of masks by employees—and even customers—for some time now, recent laws by many regional and local governments also mandate that all citizens wear masks when leaving the house.
This puts stores in the potentially uncomfortable role of enforcer when faced with customers that are unaware of the rules, or that may not have access to masks. Glen’s Garden Market in Washington, D.C., has solved for this by selling cloth bandanas just inside the door (at $10 each) for shoppers to use as face masks.
Through efforts including expanding curbside pickup and delivery hours, closing for a half hour in the middle of the day for an additional deep cleaning of the store and offering chef-curated Weekly Provision Boxes, this store is prioritizing the safety of the community at every turn.
Not only does Park Slope Food Coop post regular social media updates on current wait times—and offer anyone waiting in line a chair upon request—this Brooklyn-based cooperative encourages shoppers to use the printable grocery list that was contributed by one of its members as a guide to organize store shopping by aisle and product. This allows consumers to be in and out the door as quickly as possible without missing a thing on their lists.
Willy Street Coop in Wisconsin is one of many retailers helping take the guesswork out of what’s in stock by offering shoppers a selection of pre-packed Grocery Boxes to choose from. The Staple Box includes carefully sourced local and/or organic products such as eggs, milk, bread, fruits and vegetables, rice, cheese, peanut butter and coffee, tea or orange juice.
Customers can also choose the Omnivore Staple Box with grass-fed beef and chicken breasts, or the Vegetarian version with beans, plant-based cheese and milk, and tofu (in place of eggs) for vegans.
In the mood for something special? Try the Cooped Up Date Night Cheese and Charcuterie Box for a (local Wisconsin) cheese, charcuterie and cracker extravaganza, accompanied by pears, olive oil bruschetta and an optional bottle of wine.
And because it can be harder for seniors and immune-compromised customers to get what they need, Valley Natural Foods in Minnesota is offering these customers an exclusive Basics Bag consisting of meal ingredients that lasts up to three days for one to two people, along with recipe ideas, that can only be picked up at the store’s drive-thru.
Down to Earth Hawaii is not only helping customers find what they need, it is also helping them figure out what to do with it. The retailer has kicked off a series of free, interactive cooking demos on both Facebook and Instagram Live, highlighting easy-to-follow recipes for favorite dishes from the store's foodservice menu, including Spicy Noodle Salad and Rainbow Kale Salad.
And for its part, Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma-based Akin’s Natural Foods is not only filling its social media sites with “Good Ideas” geared toward helping customers find balance and peace during these unsettled times, but it is also hosting various Facebook Live events featuring Nutrition Director Mary Ann O’Dell centered around ways to decrease stress naturally.