As the country works to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, some Walmart, Costco and Target locations are being ordered to stop selling "non-essential" items. The move comes in an effort to reduce foot traffic in the stores, which have been allowed to remain open because they sell groceries or offer pharmacy services.
On March 31, Vermont's Agency of Commerce and Community Development ordered "large 'big box' retailers," including Walmart, Target, and Costco, to cease in-person sales of non-essential items. Those items include arts and crafts, beauty, carpet and flooring, clothing, consumer electronics, entertainment (books, music, movies), furniture, home and garden, jewelry, paint, photo services, sports equipment, toys, and others. The release suggested that to comply with the order, retailers close or block aisles, close portions of the stores, or remove the non-essential items altogether.
"Large 'big box' retailers generate significant shopping traffic by virtue of their size and the variety of goods offered in a single location," Lindsay Kurrle, Agency of Commerce and Community Development Secretary, said in a press release. "This volume of shopping traffic significantly increases the risk of further spread of this dangerous virus to Vermonters and the viability of Vermont's health care system. We are directing these stores to put public health first and help us reduce the number of shoppers by requiring on-line ordering, delivery and curbside pickup whenever possible, and by stopping the sale of non-essential items."
Similar mandates have been ordered in Indiana. According to Business Insider, the Board of Commissioners in Howard County, Indiana, prohibited retailers in the area from selling non-essential items in March. The ordinance came in response to complaints from non-essential businesses regarding essential businesses that were still selling non-essential goods. Retail workers also complained that customers were unnecessarily leaving home to browse stores because they were "bored at home," putting employees' health at risk.
The outlet found that several other locations across the country, including Summit County, Colorado, and Springfield, Missouri, have also ordered that retailers stop the sale of non-essential items. While the move has faced some criticism, it is also being praised. NJ.com reports that some even think it should be taken a step further, suggesting that retailers should only offer curbside pick-up.
"They should keep all stores closed and have all their workers focused on curbside. It will help protect everyone," one person said. "If they must stay open then no one should be allowed to shop nonessential items because the longer they are in the store the more dangerous it is for everyone."