Fort Bend County grocery stores are adjusting their operations amidst a struggle to keep up with customer demand since the spread of COVID-19, the upper-respiratory disease caused by the new strain of coronavirus, put much of the Houston area into panic mode earlier this month.
Demand has been driven by residents wanting to stock up on supplies such as hand soap and sanitizer, toilet paper and food, temporarily cleaning out some area stores. A photo posted on Facebook early Friday afternoon showed a Richmond H-E-B with empty shelves as far as could be seen.
“It’ll be 30 years (Tuesday) with H-E-B,” company president Scott McClelland said Monday during a news
conference in Houston. “I’ve never seen anything like this month.”
H-E-B, which has more than 10 locations in Fort Bend County, announced on Friday afternoon that all its Houston-area stores, along with all Joe V’s Smart Shop, Mi Tienda and Central Market locations, will operate from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. until further notice. The Texas-based chain said the change aims to help stores keep its shelves stocked.
McClelland said H-E-B also is implementing measures aimed at promoting social distancing, including restricting the flow of customers into its stores and installing clear windows between customers and cashiers. He said H-E-B is sanitizing its stores twice per day.
McClelland said H-E-B is expanding its curbside services as well and is well-equipped to keep stocking its shelves, dispatching 1,300 trucks per day that deliver products to its stores all over the state.
“So there will be food,” he said. “There’s not a reason to stock up. Just come back tomorrow.”
H-E-B is not the only grocer in the area struggling to keep up with demand and amending its operations amidst concerns about COVID-19. At the Sam’s Club in Stafford at 12300 Southwest Fwy., the line to get in poured out the door and into the parking lot.
In a joint news conference with McClelland and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, executives from Kroger and Randall’s also spoke about a surge in demand and the ways in which they are handling that. Both companies have several stores in Fort Bend County.
Joe Kelley of Kroger, which has adopted new hours of 7 a.m.-10 p.m., said the company also is well-positioned to meet demand but is struggling to put products back on shelves before they scooped up. Randall’s has adopted new hours of 7 a.m.-9 p.m.
Because so many shoppers are frequenting their stores, the executives for H-E-B, Kroger and Randall’s said each company is hiring.
“We’re working hard to serve our community,” Kelley said. “We would love anyone in need of a job to join our team.”