Retail stores prepare for the holiday shopping season under the new, stronger mask mandate

Governor's mask mandate implemented in stores

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Governor Roy Cooper’s new executive order strengthening the state’s mask mandate goes into effect just before Black Friday.

Part of the order requires large retail businesses with more than 15,000 square feet to have an employee stationed near the entrance ensuring masks are worn and implementing occupancy limits for patrons who enter.

Shopper Marietta Thrower says she applauds the governor for putting in stricter mask mandates.

“When you go into some of these stores and other locations, you see people walking in without masks on and some of them have small children,” said Thrower. “I think to myself, ‘Are these people crazy?’ I think that’s a very good policy that he put into place.”

The order falls in line with Target’s safety measures that have been put in place at its stores for the holiday season. More team members are dedicated to pickup ordering, which allows customers to shop online and then pick it up from the store without ever leaving their car. Target also has team members stationed at the front of stores to clean carts and direct guests, as well as make sure they’re wearing a mask. Target says if someone can’t wear a mask or chooses not to do so, they’ll be asked to use the online shopping tools. Target started Black Friday shopping deals early to help avoid huge crowds on the day.

Walmart has done the same. Team members are also stationed up front to make sure customers are walking into the store wearing a mask.

“During this challenging time, we’re working to balance health and safety concerns while still meeting the needs and expectations of our customers and associates,” said a Walmart spokesperson in an email to WECT. “We’ve seen a positive response to the measures we’ve taken and are pleased that the vast majority of the 150 million customers who visit us each week are wearing masks. If a customer doesn’t want to wear a face covering, our Health Ambassadors notify a member of management, who will talk to the customer and try to find a solution.”

On Nov. 14, Walmart resumed limiting the number of guests at stores.

“Walmart began limiting capacity in our stores to 20% in early April, or lower if mandated by a local government, and that limit has remained in place since then,” said the spokesperson. “We know from months of metering data in our stores that the vast majority of the time our stores didn’t reach our self-imposed 20% metering capacity. Out of an abundance of caution, we have resumed counting the number of people entering and leaving our stores.”

The spokesperson said over the last eight months they’ve seen a significant increase in customers using the online grocery pickup and placing online orders for other items they need or want, thus reducing the number of in-store shoppers.

Shopper Dawn Toussaint thinks the stronger mask mandate is the answer to the issues the country is seeing with the rise in number of COVID-19 cases.

“I think we need to continue [wearing masks] as long as the virus continues to spiral,” said Toussaint.

Academy Sports in Wilmington, just like Target and Walmart, has already been implementing some of these safety measures ahead of Governor Cooper’s announcement and Black Friday.

“We’re emphasizing safety first,” said David Crawford with Academy Sports. “We’re going to have someone greeting at the door always offering masks to people that don’t have them. We’ve also marked all throughout the store as safe social distancing areas, as well. We’re emphasizing our curbside pickup as well as online shopping as well.”

Crawford says since Academy Sports began offering online and curbside orders, it has continued to become a more popular option for shopping. He says he expects that trend to continue, especially as the pandemic drags on.

“What we’re trying to do is trying to keep it around 50% capacity to help maintain social distancing and the ability for people to spread [out] and shop safely as well as comfortably,” said Crawford. “Each store is going to have the ability to kind of monitor the flow of personnel and traffic and adjust on the fly as need be.”

The Wilmington Police Department will respond to any location that may not be in full compliance with the executive orders.

“Officers will always attempt to reconcile the situation with education about the requirements first, but citations will be (and have been) issued if there is not voluntary compliance,” said a spokesperson for WPD.

Copyright 2020 WECT. All rights reserved.