Chain Stores, States Set Mask-Wearing Mandates

By Alan Wolf, YSN

The U.S. moved closer to a national mask mandate this week as some of the country’s largest retailers including Walmart, Best Buy, Target, Kroger, Kohl’s, CVS and Walgreens joined three more states — Alabama, Colorado and Montana — in making face coverings a must indoors.

Walmart, which already required employees and shoppers to cover up in about 65 percent of its discount stores and Sam’s Club locations, will make it a blanket policy on Monday (July 20). The company said the move was intended “to help bring consistency” across its store base, and will station specially-trained “Health Ambassadors” near Walmart entrances to remind visitors of the new requirement.

In a joint statement, Walmart COO Dacona Smith and Sam’s Club COO Lance de la Rosa said that while “virtually everyone” has abided by face covering rules where mandated by states and municipalities, the black-shirted Ambassadors will receive special training to “find a solution” for customers who refuse to comply and to “reduce friction” for those who are unable to wear a mask.

The discounter said it is considering various options to avoid challenging uncooperative shoppers amid reports of confrontations with frontline retail workers. Some encounters have escalated into violence, including the murder of a Family Dollar security guard in Flint, Mich., in May.

“We know some people have differing opinions on this topic,” the executives said, but described wearing a face covering as “a simple step everyone can take for their safety and the safety of others in our facilities.”

Similarly, Best Buy, which made face coverings mandatory within all its stores on Wednesday (July 15), described the action as “an appropriate public health response” and advised any customer who is concerned by the policy to shop online.

Target’s mask mandate will go into effect Aug. 1. Employees will offer disposable masks at store entrances, the discounter said, and the policy will be communicated through signage and overhead audio. Like Best Buy, the company is inviting mask-averse customers to avail themselves of its online and curbside pickup alternatives.

Also following suit this week were Kroger, the country’s largest supermarket; Kohl’s, the discount department store; and CVS and Walgreens, the number one and two pharmacies. The chains joined early adherents Costco, Starbucks and Apple, and all were lauded for doing so by the National Retail Federation (NRF). In a statement this week, the world’s largest retail trade association reiterated its call to President Trump, Vice President Pence and the National Governors Association for a national mask standard, noting that “Shopping in a store is a privilege, not a right. If a customer refuses to adhere to store policies, they are putting employees and other customers at undue risk.”

Related: National Chains Seek State-Enforced Facemask Mandate for Stores

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis echoed the point in issuing an executive order, effective today, that requires everyone age 10 and older to wear a mask or face covering while in public indoor places, The Denver Post reported. “Look, in Colorado, there’s no shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service,” he said. “Very simple.”

Colorado joined Alabama and Montana this week in implementing mask-wearing rules, bringing the number of states with similar statutes to 29.

Addressing the issue on a recent series of regional call-ins, some BrandSource members said they are requesting but not requiring customers to wear face coverings within their showrooms, and are providing masks if needed. Instead, they’ve put the onus on employees to practice such safety protocols as social distancing, frequent hand washing, disinfecting high-touch surfaces and wearing masks.

See: L.H. Brubaker Shares its Safety Guidelines

BrandSource is a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc.