The Rules for Shopping at Walmart, Target and More During COVID-19

From social distancing to one-way aisles, here's what stores are doing to keep people safe.

To say the coronavirus outbreak has impacted our shopping habits would be a vast understatement. Gone are the days of strolling down the aisles at Trader Joe’s or swinging by Target without a mask on. Now, we go in with a list and a plan, if we don’t get grocery delivery.

It seems the executives behind these stores are also worried about the safety of their customers and employees. No one wants shoppers lingering longer than they have to, and many places have taken extra measures to ensure everyone’s safe while they’re picking up the essentials.

Here are the changes you can expect in the coming weeks:

Walmart

Walmart is limiting the number of people in stores at any given time. The stores will allow no more than five people for each 1,000 square feet of the store (the press release says this is 20% of the store’s capacity), though this may depend on the state you live in and the regulations you’re following. Walmart workers will keep track of how many people are inside and maintain a social distancing-friendly line by the entrance, while also allowing shoppers in one at a time.

Once you’re in, you might notice another big change: Some stores are adding one-way aisles, enforced by employees and signs. And, when you finish checking out, you’ll have to leave through a different door than the one you came in, so everyone’s not trying to move through the same doors.

For guidance on what to buy, check our expert’s advice on how to stock a pantry.

Target

Target is taking measures to keep track of and limit the number of people in the store, too. If too many people try to get in, stores will “meter” the crowd, meaning people will have to line up outside to wait their turn. Target employees will “help guests into a designated waiting area outside with social distancing markers” while others will guide guests inside the store to keep things moving.

In other words, don’t expect to get your 10,000 steps in at Target anytime soon. Instead, buy items online and pick them up in the store or have them delivered.

Need some advice on how to spend your quarantine time? Here’s how to cook, clean and make the most of your time indoors.

Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s changes aren’t as extensive as Walmart’s, but they’re certainly worth noting. First, all stores are now closing at 8 p.m. (9 p.m. for NYC-based stores). Trader Joe’s is also implementing more cautious cleaning routines and limiting the number of patrons in their stores at a given time. On top of that, Trader Joe’s is encouraging the use of face masks, though you may be required to wear one anyway, according to your state’s regulations.

You won’t be able to sample anything while you shop—but at a time like this, why would you want to? And, like many other stores, Trader Joe’s is dedicating the first hour of shopping time for those who are 60+ or older as well as those with disabilities.

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Emily Hannemann
Emily adores both food and writing, so combining those passions as a writer for Taste of Home makes perfect sense. Her work has also appeared in Birds & Blooms and on TV Insider. When she’s not eating peanut butter straight from the jar, you'll find her running or birdwatching. Emily is currently a journalism graduate student at the University of Missouri.