Doug McMillon, Walmart CEO, said this past Tuesday that customers are beginning to load up on essential items, such as toilet paper, as COVID-19 cases increasing in the United States. Fortunately, McMillon also says that his company is well-prepared to keep up with the increase in demand this time around.
In a recent statement, McMillon noted,
“It feels to me like we’ll work through this period of time better than we did in the first wave,” he told investors on an earnings call. He called the Walmart supply chain “still stressed in some places” with out-of-stock items.
According to CNBC, COVID-19 cases have increased rapidly around the United States. For the first time this past Monday, the seven-day average of new COVID-19 infections passed over 150,000 in the U.S, according to recent data from John Hopkins University. That day marked the tenth of an increase of at least 30%.
There are particular places around the country where the outbreaks have become particularly serious. Many governments are setting up new restrictions and curfews. One grim example comes to us from El Paso, Texas. The town has completely run out of hospital beds to place sick patients in. As mortuaries fill up, hospitals are having to store dead patients in freezer trucks.
Many doctors and nurses have been forced to make the tough decision of which patients receive care and which do not. Beyond El Paso, there are many other cities gearing up to reimpose gathering and activity restrictions. Indoor dining might once again shut down to help the spread of the virus.
Many retailers have had to re-adjust their policies once more. Walmart is a prime example. The retailer gain resumed customer counting this past week to make sure there weren’t too many people in the store to socially distance from one another.
Plenty of grocers are following Walmart’s lead, including Wegmans, Publix, and Kroger, which have once again reinstated purchase limits on certain items, including hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray, and toilet paper.
McMillon said that “the recent rise in Covid cases throughout the country reminds us we must remain vigilant.”
“We’ll continue being disciplined about the safety protocols throughout our stores, clubs, distribution, and fulfillment centers.
McMillon said that the pantry-loading varies widely from state to state depending on the number of cases in a particular area and the local restrictions. He says that the variance truly depends on how people feel at a certain time.
However, he does anticipate that people will begin filling up their cards with gifts and festive foods beyond the “essential” items, more or less reflecting what Walmart is used to seeing during the winter months. He also notes that now is the time for retailers to keep their shelves stocked and keep their customers distanced from one another as stores begin to fill up once again.
Luckily, most retailers have made the choice to stay closed for Black Friday Shopping this year to help curb the number of new cases popping up from large public gatherings.