Walmart Inc. is removing the one-way aisles it had imposed in its stores at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, a move likely to be welcomed by customers who largely ignored the rule anyway.
The nation’s biggest retailer said it would resume two-way shopping in all of its 4,753 U.S. stores at the beginning of October and also reopen some additional store entrances that had been closed temporarily to help control the flow of customer traffic. Walmart will keep in place other safety measures like plastic shields at registers, requiring customers to wear masks and spraying shopping carts after each use.
“Customers have adopted new behaviors and take serious their personal responsibility to wear masks, practice social distancing and use our expanded hours to better spread traffic throughout the day, enabling us to provide them new options, like opening a second entrance and resuming two way shopping in our aisles,” Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg said in an emailed statement when asked about the store-path policy change.
Walmart’s decision to let customers wander freely follows that of supermarket chain Publix, which ended one-way aisles last month except where it’s required by local ordinances. Retailers have instituted a slew of safety measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus -- not knowing at the onset of the pandemic what would have the most effect -- and some have been adhered to more closely than others.
Mask-wearing mandates inside retail stores have become a political and cultural lightning rod, as President Donald Trump has not consistently embraced their efficacy. Enforcement is often lax as employees don’t want to spark a confrontation. One-way aisles are less of a hot-button issue, but many customers simply ignore the signs and floor decals that direct them to shop the store in only one direction.