Grocers Express Messages of Safety, Solidarity Amid Protests

Retailers close stores, adjust hours in wake of property damage
Photograph: Shutterstock

Grocers are spreading a message of safety and solidarity as protests intensified over the weekend, causing multiple store closures and property damage. The protests over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis, began May 26 in Minneapolis and have since spread across the nation.

“We are a community in pain. That pain is not unique to the Twin Cities—it extends across America,” said Brian Cornell, chairman and CEO of Minneapolis-based Target, in a release. “As a Target team, we’ve huddled, we’ve consoled, we’ve witnessed horrific scenes similar to what’s playing out now and wept that not enough is changing. And as a team we’ve vowed to face pain with purpose.”

Until further notice, Target has closed two stores in Minneapolis, including its Lake Street store near where Floyd was killed, and one store each in Oakland, Calif., Atlanta, Chicago and Philadelphia. The stores will reopen “as soon as it is safe to do so” but the Lake Street store will require rebuilding, with a goal of opening in late 2020.  

“We’re providing community support and prioritizing the rebuilding of our Lake Street store,” Target said. “We have teams working to provide basic first aid supplies, water and essentials through partnerships with local nonprofits. We appreciate members of the community and our team who have assisted in cleaning in and around that location. We are now boarding the store up until we can survey the location and begin recovery efforts.”

Team members affected by the closures will be paid for up to 14 days of scheduled hours, including COVID-19 premium pay. They will also be able to work at other nearby Target locations. “In any of our other locations that are damaged or at risk, the safety and well-being of our team, guests and the surrounding community will continue to be our paramount priority,” Cornell said.

Another Minneapolis-based retailer, Lunds & Byerlys, closed its uptown Minneapolis grocery store and temporarily changed its hours at other area locations over the weekend. On June 1, the uptown location remained closed and 26 other stores had reduced hours as the retailers continues to monitor the evolving situation.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart has also closed stores amid vandalization and looting. A Walmart spokesperson told Yahoo Finance that more than a dozen stores across the U.S. have sustained damage, with “hot spots” including Minnesota and Dallas.

“As we continue to monitor the situations unfolding across Minneapolis, we will keep our focus on prioritizing the safety of our associates and customers,” President and CEO Doug McMillon said in a release. “What our country experienced this week yet again reminds us of the need for us to support each other and to come together. Until we, as a nation, confront and address these hard realities, we will never achieve the best of what we can be.”

Cincinnati-based Kroger’s chairman and CEO expressed a similar sentiment. “As America’s grocer, we strive to demonstrate our values of respect, diversity, inclusion, honesty, integrity and safety in our everyday actions. In that spirit, we all have a responsibility to speak out against racism and injustice when and where we see it. But what’s more, we have a responsibility to more fully examine ourselves and to engage one another with greater compassion and deeper listening,” Rodney McMullen said on LinkedIn.

A Kroger was among several grocery retailers, including a Target, damaged in Atlanta area protests over the weekend. Other food retailers reportedly damaged across the nation include a Heinen’s Fine Foods on Euclid Avenue in Ohio; a Giant Food in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, D.C.; and an Amazon Go on Capitol Hill in Seattle.

Seattle-based Amazon has sent notices to drivers in almost a dozen cities, including Minneapolis, Seattle, Los Angeles, Nashville and Miami, to stop delivering packages. “We are monitoring the situation closely and in a handful of cities we’ve adjusted routes or scaled back typical delivery operations to ensure the safety of our teams,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement to the Seattle Times.

Meanwhile, Whole Foods, which Amazon acquired in 2017, said May 31 it was temporarily closing or adjusting store hours at several locations across the country. Whole Foods’ stores near Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Chicago remain closed, while a Bryant Park store in New York, which has only been open for grocery delivery due to the coronavirus outbreak, is ending online orders early as a result of protests, a Whole Foods spokesperson told CNBC.



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