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Cornelius News

Brave new world of shopping: It’s hit or miss

April 15. By Dave Yochum. Rules requiring all customers to wear face coverings when shopping at Fresh Market weren’t being enforced this morning, a day after they went into effect. Three customers were not wearing facemasks, while 10-12 others did.

Fresh Market does have shields up between customers and clerks, as did Food Lion, Harris Teeter/Old Jetton and Publix as the state’s new physical distancing rules begin to take hold.

The new executive order limits the number of people allowed inside stores at one time, which means fewer people crowding the aisles. If you happen to go at a busy time, you may wait in line outside.

A Fresh Market spokesperson said “we couldn’t possibly control” everyone entering the store such that each person is wearing as mask, as the CDC recommends.

The new executive order from Gov. Cooper dictates that stores are limited to 20 percent of the stated fire capacity, or they can have 5 persons per 1,000 square feet.

Stores must have personnel at the door to limit access. There must also be lines marking six feet apart if customers are lined up outside.

Retail is feast or famine right now. US government figures show grocery sales leaped 27 percent in March. But sales


fell by the same amount at auto dealers and 17 percent at gas stations—where prices seem to be hitting new lows.

Gas was $1.74 a gallon this morning at Cashion’s.

Sales fell 50 percent at clothing stores, 26.5 percent at restaurants and 20 percent at department stores.

Business and political leaders are balancing the strict health measures required to fight the spread of COVID-19 against what’s looking more and more like a profound restructuring of not just retail but other businesses.

The March nosedive was more than double the biggest one-month decline during the Great Recession between 2007 and 2009.

Huntersville Mayor John Aneralla said it’s fundamentally unfair that stores like a Wal-Mart or a chain grocery are open when “low-touch” mom and pop stores are not allowed to open.

He said a 1,000 square foot card shop, for example, is not going to be hotbed of spreading viruses if there are only five people shopping inside, the same guideline as a grocery store.

“It’s time to have a discussion of whatever retailers can open up to absorb some of the capacity that has been lost by the other retailers,” he said, explaining that doing so could help smaller retailers survive.

“The mom-and-pops are suffering the most during this crisis,” he said.

Birkdale Village, one of the retail drivers of the Huntersville economy, has been virtually shut down since the


governor’s stay-at-home order went into effect March 30.

On March 14, Cooper ordered all K-12 public schools in North Carolina to close for a minimum of two weeks in response to COVID-19.

On March 27, the governor issued a statewide stay-at-home order scheduled to go into effect at 5 PM on March 30 and to last for at least one month. The order also banned gatherings of 10 or more people, with the Governor calling it “truly a matter of life or death.