Some retailers see business surge

Social distancing requirements to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in America have had a devasting effect on most of the economy.

One notable exception is grocery stores, as shoppers have stocked up on food and other essentials, especially toilet paper. With schools closed, many employees forced to work from home and restaurants only able to offer carryout or delivery services, people are eating more at home, and therefore are buying more groceries.

As a result of the sudden surge in business, Milwaukee-based Roundy’s Supermarkets Inc. recently announced that it plans to hire 2,500 people to work at its Pick ‘n Save and Metro Market stores in Wisconsin. Roundy’s says it needs help in all positions and all shifts at its 106 stores in Wisconsin, including full-time, part-time and salaried management positions.

Roundy’s is a wholly owned subsidiary of Cincinnati-based The Kroger Co. It has nearly 100 Pick ‘n Save stores in Wisconsin and 10 Metro Market stores.

Kroger recently hired more than 2,000 people in the one week to keep up with increased demand from the coronavirus outbreak, chief executive officer Rodney McMullen told CNBC. The company, the largest supermarket chain in the U.S., currently has more than 10,000 openings for positions across plants, warehouses and stores, McMullen said.

Walmart said it will hire 150,000 employees, including 4,200 in Wisconsin, to work in its stores and distribution centers. The company said it would provide more than $365 million in bonuses to hourly workers.

Minneapolis-based Target is also seeing a surge of business during the coronavirus outbreak.

“We continue to experience incredible demand across our business, and Target’s ability to help our guests in this unprecedented time would not be possible without the strength of our team,” Target CEO Brian Cornell said in a statement. “I am proud and humbled by the dedication and humanity they show to our guests every day.”

Target said it is spending more than $300 million in higher wages, bonuses and paid leave related to the coronavirus outbreak. The company said it will increase its hourly wages by $2 for its 300,000-plus workers. Target said it will also pay out bonuses in April that range from $250 to $1,500 to 20,000 hourly store team leaders who oversee individual departments in stores.

The company also said it is adding a new benefit to give workers who are pregnant, 65 years old or older or who have underlying health risks and don’t feel comfortable working access to paid leave for up to 30 days.

With more consumers having to stay home, more of them are shopping online. To handle its increase of orders, Seattle-based Amazon announced plans to hire 100,000 new employees, including 700 in Wisconsin at its Kenosha fulfillment and sortation facilities, its Prime Now hub in Milwaukee, a pick-up location in Madison and at its three Whole Foods stores in the state.

“We are opening 100,000 new full- and part-time positions across the U.S. in our fulfillment centers and delivery network to meet the surge in demand from people relying on Amazon’s service during this stressful time, particularly those most vulnerable to being out in public,” the company said in a statement.

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Andrew Weiland
Andrew Weiland is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, Weiland is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, and son, Zachary. He is an avid sports fan and enjoys coaching his son’s youth baseball and basketball teams.