Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen announced Tuesday morning that all Kroger store employees will be required to wear face masks later this week. In an interview with Michael Strahan on Good Morning America, the executive, who was recently named a White House adviser in the coronavirus pandemic recovery, stressed the importance of maintaining safety for customers and associates alike.
"We've been able to get PPE [personal protection equipment] for our associates, and in our hotspot divisions we require our associates to wear face masks and gloves," McMullen said. "Later this week, we will move that to require all associates to wear face masks as well and we always ask our customer to do the same, but that's always a local decision."
The decision comes a week after Kroger asked the government to acknowledge its workers as emergency personnel, which would give them access to PPE they can use to protect themselves while they continue to work throughout the pandemic. "Given the significant daily risk these workers face, we are calling on all of our federal and state leaders to take immediate action," McMullen said in a statement with United Food and Commercial Workers International President Marc Perrone. "Specifically, we are requesting our national leaders to assign a temporary designation of first responder or emergency personnel status for all grocery workers. Make no mistake, this designation is absolutely critical as it will ensure these frontline workers have priority access to personal protection equipment like masks and gloves."
On Tuesday, Strahan asked McMullen if Kroger would consider moving exclusively to pickup and delivery options, completely eliminating the need for customers inside stores. McMullen explained that the retail chain is testing a store in Cincinnati that was converted to pickup and delivery business only, but continues to see a need for in-person shopping. The stores are also limiting the number of people allowed in at one time, installed plexiglass barriers at registers and are using one-way aisles to limit the spread of COVID-19.
"We are testing one store where we converted it exclusively to pickup and delivery," McMullen said, noting that pickup and delivery business is "up triple digits" at Kroger stores across the country. "What we're finding is customers are actually coming to the stores fewer times. When they come, they buy bigger baskets. But also a huge percentage of our customers are doing the pickup and delivery business. So it's one of those things where we're trying supportive and there for our customers."
Kroger has been steadfast in its support of its workers throughout the crisis. In early April, the chain granted two rounds of bonuses to employees working on the front lines, first giving out a $300 bonus to full-time employees and $150 to part-time. After those were announced, the chain announced a one-time "hero bonus" of $2 extra per hour to hourly workers at their locations. They granted bonuses to grocery, supply chain, manufacturing, pharmacy and call center employees during the period between March 29 and April 18.