Walmart will limit customers and create one-way traffic inside its stores

The megastore chain said the changes are necessary to keep shoppers and employees safe from coronavirus.

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE
By David K. Li

National retail powerhouse Walmart will limit the number of customers allowed inside its stores and launch new efforts to keep shoppers moving one way, the company announced on Friday.

Starting on Saturday, only five customers per 1,000 square feet can enter a Walmart, which will be about 20 percent of each locale's listed capacity, according to a statement by Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Dacona Smith.

And in many stores next week, markers will be put down to direct shoppers to one-way foot traffic "so to help more customers avoid coming into close contact with others as they shop," according to Smith.

Huge swaths of America are now under state-mandated shutdowns in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Grocery stores and pharmacies are among services exempted in state and local closure orders that also call for social distancing.

"While many of our customers have been following the advice of the medical community regarding social distancing and safety, we have been concerned to still see some behaviors in our stores that put undue risk on our people," Smith wrote.

One-way traffic in grocery aisles is a rare, but not totally unheard of, layout in U.S. grocery stores, according to Elizabeth Peralta, executive director of the National Supermarket Association.

The group has been urging its members to institute one-way shopper traffic since early March, though Peralta concedes that could be difficult in urban settings where square footage is at a premium.

"I don't think it's as far fetched as it seems, it's just if you've never seen it before," she told NBC News.