Corporate Store News COVID-19 Health/Wellness Packaging Suppliers West

Grocers Reassure Customers, Businesses Help During Covid-19 Crisis

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, Western businesses are stepping up to do their part in helping their communities. Gelson’s temporarily closed one of its locations after an employee tested positive for the virus. The store was scheduled to reopen after it has been fully sanitized and inspected. Smart & Final is updating customers on its Covid-19 response. Instacart is working to improve the health and safety of its shoppers, and also has launched a new customer tip default setting. And Emerald Harvest is making free hand sanitizer and offering its facilities for use during the pandemic.


Gelson’s temporarily closes a location after associate tests positive for Covid-19

Gelson’s notified its customers March 27 that it would be temporarily closing its Pacific Palisades location, at 15424 Sunset Blvd., after one of its team members tested positive for Covid-19. The employee last worked at the store on March 22 and is currently recovering at home. To keep everyone safe and protected as this pandemic grows, Gelson’s President and CEO Rob McDougall said the company is taking precautionary measures for cleaning and sanitization related to coronavirus (Covid-19). He said as soon as the store has been fully sanitized and inspected, it will reopen.Gelson's Covid-19

All Gelson’s employees at the location are being alerted, and Gelson’s is encouraging anyone who may have been in contact with the affected team member to follow CDC-recommended self-monitoring guidelines and to call their healthcare providers right away if they develop any symptoms. Those team members that were in direct contact with the employee will be paid for a 14-day self-quarantine.

While the store is closed, Gelson’s will be paying all associates any scheduled shifts which are canceled. The store was expected to reopen on Saturday, March 28.

New temporary policies

Effective Saturday, March 28, Gelson’s will not allow reusable bags.

“While we understand the concerns of customers worried about the impact of plastic on the environment, the health and safety of our employees as well as our customers is our primary concern,” McDougall stated. “We look forward to a day when we can safely allow reusable bags to be used in our stores.”

He said the company also is making clear that, consistent with CDC recommendations, it doesn’t ask its employees to wear masks if they are healthy, but does allow employees who choose to wear face masks to do so. Whether they choose to wear a mask or not, Gelson’s does not allow sick employees to work. 

Other actions Gelson’s has taken recently to protect its employees and customers include: 

  • Installation of clear protection screens at our registers;
  • Elimination of merchandise returns; 
  • Monitoring and limiting access to reduce the number of customers in the store. Beginning with the seniors 65-plus shopping hour from 7-8 a.m., staff will monitor the entrance to avoid crowding as needed and help facilitate six-foot social distancing. At checkout, areas are marked on the floor for customers to maintain distance between shoppers. 

Gelson’s has relaxed limits on some of its products, such as poultry, meat and eggs. Store management still has the right to restrict quantities as needed for their location, but the company no longer is enforcing those limits across the chain at all times. 

Supplies are catching up to the still high demand on bread, pasta, canned meat/seafood, bacon/smoked and breakfast sausages; however those items are still limited to two packages per household. 

Gelson’s continues to either be on allocation or have orders cancelled by suppliers for items such as 24-pack water, paper towels, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, household disinfectants and bleach. When those items are in stock, there are typically limits of one per household. 

“We have heard some wonderful feedback from customers about our great store teams over the last few weeks. Please be assured that hourly wage rates have been increased, employee discounts raised, free lunches are continuing to be served a few times per week, and we are providing paid leave as needed—we know that our ability to serve you is because of them,” McDougall stated.


Instacart offers new health and safety supplies for shopper community

Instacart Covid-19San Francisco-based Instacart will be distributing new health and safety supplies to full-service shoppers as a part of its ongoing commitment to safely serve all members of the Instacart community in the wake of Covid-19. Additionally, Instacart has launched a new customer tip default setting that makes it easier for customers to set their own tip default based on previous orders, ultimately helping shoppers earn higher, more consistent tips.

Instacart has become an essential service for millions of people in the U.S. and Canada as they rely on the platform to get access to the groceries and household goods they need. The company has been actively working with local and federal authorities to monitor the Covid-19 situation as it evolves and adhering to recommendations from public health officials to ensure the company is taking the appropriate precautionary measures to keep the entire Instacart community safe.

In addition to bringing on more shoppers to better serve customers, Instacart also has introduced a number of guidelines, resources and new product features to further support the health and safety of all Instacart shoppers. 

“Over the last month, our team has had an unwavering commitment to prioritize the health and safety of the entire Instacart community. We’ve been evaluating the Covid-19 crisis minute-by-minute to provide real-time support for Instacart shoppers and customers throughout North America. We’re in close contact with the Centers for Disease Control and other medical experts to ensure our policies, guidelines and resources are aligned with their recommendations as this situation evolves,” said Nilam Ganenthiran, president of Instacart. “Within days of the Covid-19 outbreak in the U.S., we rolled out retroactive sick pay for in-store shoppers nationally and extended pay for all shoppers affected by Covid-19. We were the first company to launch ‘Leave at My Door Delivery’ to give our customers and shoppers a safer, more flexible delivery option. Last week, we announced a new Covid-19 bonus to increase pay as Instacart shoppers step up as household heroes for customers. And now, we’ve sourced, manufactured and are distributing our own hand sanitizer in an effort to expedite distribution lead times and work around supply chain shortages. Our teams will continue to operate with a sense of urgency on creative solutions to help ensure Instacart shoppers have access to health and safety supplies as quickly as possible.”

Over the last few weeks, Instacart has been taking proactive measures to maintain a safe environment for shoppers nationwide, including working closely with local teams to provide disinfecting supplies for in-store shoppers, staging areas and sanitation stations in collaboration with retail partners. Given the broad supply chain shortages for supplies like hand sanitizer, Instacart worked with a third-party to manufacture its own hand sanitizer for Instacart shoppers to overcome the existing inventory delays and global supply chain scarcity, without taking away resources from healthcare workers.

The product is a liquid spray ethyl alcohol-based hand sanitizer, which will ship in the next week. The independently-developed hand sanitizer that Instacart is providing meets CDC guidance for alcohol-based hand sanitizer and can be used when soap and water are not readily available. The hand sanitizer spray will be available via a website built for the shopper community where shoppers will be able to request the product by logging in with their Instacart shopper email address.

New customer tip default

Instacart has been testing a new tip default setting for the past few months. Based on the positive feedback from shoppers and customers during product tests, the company is now launching a new customer tip default setting for all Instacart customers across North America. Now, all existing customers’ completed orders will default to the customer’s last tip amount, instead of the previous 5 percent tip default setting. The new customer tip default feature leverages order recollection technology, which remembers a customer’s previous tip and automatically sets it as their new default tip for all future orders.

Instacart is also removing the “none” option in the customer tip settings, requiring customers to manually change their tip to $0 if desired and making it less likely that a customer will remove the shopper tip altogether. Additionally, if a customer lowers the tip below 5 percent, the default will reset to 5 percent to ensure shoppers continue to have a baseline tip amount. 

Tips continue to be separate from any Instacart earnings paid to the shopper and, as always, 100 percent of all tips go directly to the shopper. 

In the last few weeks, the company has seen order volume grow by more than 150 percent year-over-year, with average customer basket size also increasing by 15 percent. To continue to meet the growing customer demand for grocery delivery and pickup, last week the company announced plans to bring on an additional 300,000 full-service shoppers over the next three months. In the last week alone, Instacart has already added nearly 50,000 new shoppers to its platform.

In addition to bringing on more shoppers to best serve customers, over the last month, Instacart has introduced a number of guidelines, resources and new product features to further support the health and safety of all Instacart shoppers.


Smart & Final gives update on Covid-19 policies

Smart & Final says it is taking every measure to keep stores fully staffed and stocked and is acting with the health of their associates and customers in mind. Smart & Final Covid-19

Beginning Monday, March 30, store hours returned to regular hours, which is 6 a.m.-10 p.m. for most locations.

Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6-8 a.m. will be reserved for seniors, expectant women, people with disabilities and those in the first responder field. 

All associates are approved to wear masks as they work, if they choose to. Nationwide supply is greatly limited and priority must be given to healthcare workers. However, Smart & Final is working with industry and government partners to attempt to obtain them. For now, if associates have access to a mask, they are free to wear it at their discretion.

Smart & Final has added social distancing staging decals on the floor which show shoppers where to stand to maintain a 6-foot distance.

Smart & Final has made the decision to install plexiglass sneeze guards. Due to the nationwide shortage, it may take a couple of weeks to begin installation. 

The company will continue to issue updates when needed.


Emerald Harvest opens doors, makes sanitizer to fight pandemic

Emerald Harvest, a global hydroponics nutrient manufacturer based in Santa Rosa, California, has joined the battle against Covid-19 with initiatives aimed at aiding the community, local government and national health organizations.

CEO Rob Higgins is offering the company’s facilities and capabilities to the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and the government of California for storage, supply staging or medical use.

“We have space in California that we are making available in anticipation of any potential need,” Higgins said. “We also have a state-of-the-art mixing and bottling facility that we can set up to help where we can.”

Emerald Harvest’s production equipment includes deionized water systems, UV water treatment, an on-site lab and analysis capability.

“We deal with chemicals and hygiene procedures every day. If someone needs our capabilities, we can help,” Higgins said.

Emerald Harvest recently acquired a new 20,000-s.f. warehouse to accommodate higher production. The company’s distributor, Hawthorne Gardening (a division of Scotts Miracle-Gro Co.), has offered to remove all inventory from this warehouse to free up usable space.

“We are simply doing what we can for our community,” said Emerald Harvest President David Pratt. “Families stayed in our facilities during the [wild]fires. Offering space for supplies or medical use during this pandemic is a no-brainer.”

To help the hydroponics industry during the pandemic, Emerald Harvest has dedicated its stainless-steel mixing equipment—normally used for mixing fertilizers—to produce thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer. The bottles will be donated to those in need through distributor Hawthorne Gardening and hydroponics retail stores.

“Many growers, both home and commercial, and retailers have been making huge sacrifices to keep their businesses moving forward under these difficult circumstances,” Higgins explained. “They have developed strategies to continue to serve their customers in a safe and healthy manner while keeping their staff safe. With the nationwide shortage of hand sanitizer and the production capacity to bottle our own, we felt that giving these away absolutely free was simply the right thing to do.”

Higgins said he and his employees are reaching out to any organizations that could benefit from Emerald Harvest’s facilities and capabilities.

“Giving back is the right thing to do. Together, we’re all part of the solution,” he said.

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