How Costco Wholesale, Dollar General, H-E-B, Target, Whole Foods Market are helping seniors during coronavirus pandemic

Beginning March 17, Dollar General is dedicating its first hour of business operations to senior shoppers. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Beginning March 17, Dollar General is dedicating its first hour of business operations to senior shoppers. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Beginning March 17, Dollar General is dedicating its first hour of business operations to senior shoppers. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Amid increasing coronavirus concerns and images of empty grocery stores across the Central Texas region, Costco Wholesale, Dollar General, H-E-B, Target and Whole Foods Market have joined the ranks of stores in designating. resources to high risk populations, including seniors and those with underlying health complications.

H-E-B announced in a March 20 news release it has partnered with Favor Delivery to allow seniors access to shopping via phone and have groceries delivered to their homes. The collaboration allows seniors throughout the state of Texas who are age 60 and older to place orders based on a list of products available at H-E-B.

“We heard from our customers loud and clear, and we’re ready to offer one of the safest, healthiest solutions in the marketplace dedicated to seniors who are worried about going out in public,” said Martin Otto, H-E-B chief operating officer, in the release. “Together with Favor, H-E-B is committed to helping Texans get the products they need while slowing the spread of coronavirus in our communities.”

A senior support line has been created with volunteers from both H-E-B and Favor to accept and process orders every day from 9 a.m.-1 p.m., per the release. Customers can call 1-833-397-0080 to place an order, or do so on Favor's website or its app.

Beginning March 20, Costco will operate a senior hour exclusively for members ages 60 and older and those with physical disabilities, Costco staff confirmed March 19. The special operating hour runs Monday through Friday, 8-9 a.m. No guests of approved customers or individuals outside of these groups will be permitted to shop during this time, staff added.

Beginning on March 18, Whole Foods Market will serve customers ages 60 and older, as well as those with health conditions, one hour before the general public, as announced in a March 17 company news release. If a store's typical opening time is 9 a.m., customers 60 and older can begin shopping at 8 a.m. All Whole Foods Market stores will also close two hours earlier than its normal operating hours for cleaning and restocking purposes, per the release.

Target CEO Brian Cornell announced in a March 18 company email that all stores will close at 9 p.m. daily to allow employees to "replenish and deeply clean" the facilities. Per the email, Target will also increasing staffing to company services that promote social distancing, such as its order pickup and drive-up programs.

Beginning March 18 and continuing each Wednesday until further notice, the first hour of operations will be designated "to support vulnerable guests, including the elderly and those with underlying health concerns," according to the email. High-demand products, such as toilet paper and certain groceries, will have purchase limits against them to ensure more customers can access the products.

Dollar General began dedicating its first hour of shopping exclusively to senior citizens on March 17, as announced in a March 16 news release. The senior hour allotment, per the release, is an extension of Dollar General's mission to serve others, with seniors identified as a high-risk group, or "who are one of the groups most vulnerable to the COVID-19 coronavirus."

"Dollar General wants to provide these at-risk customers with the ability to purchase the items they need and want at the beginning of each day to avoid busier and more crowded shopping periods," the release states. "Other customers are encouraged to plan their shopping trips around this window of time to allow the most susceptible customers in our communities the ability to shop during the first hour that stores are open."

In addition to a designated senior hour, Dollar General will close its stores one hour earlier than normal store hours to allow for cleaning and restocking of the store's facilities and products, per the release.

"In keeping with our mission and our ongoing commitment to serve our communities, we are dedicating the first hour of each day to seniors," CEO Todd Vasos said in the release. "We appreciate our customers’ understanding of our decision and request they visit our stores later in the morning to allow at-risk populations the ability to purchase the items they need at affordable prices. During these unprecedented times, Dollar General is diligently working to meet the ongoing needs of our customers and communities."

In a March 15 Facebook thread on a Pflugerville community page, several residents expressed wishes for H-E-B, among other grocery stores, to implement a similar senior hour. As of March 17, H-E-B has not yet designated an hour exclusively to senior shoppers.