Shopping for all but basic necessities has been put on hold on much of Oahu.
Ala Moana Center, Hawaii’s largest shopping center, said Monday all but essential businesses — such as grocery stores, drugstores and restaurants — are now closed. Pearlridge Center in Aiea closed its doors Monday for all but restaurants with carry-out, or delivery services with exterior-facing entrances that offer essential goods and services, including health care services, grocery stores and banks.
Royal Hawaiian Center in Waikiki will be closed through April 30, except for restaurants open for curbside pickup and delivery.
Warehouse stores, big-box retailers such as Target and grocery stores are adapting in various ways to the call for social distancing and the heightened demand for food, paper goods and cleaning products.
There are long lines winding outside the entrances to Costco Wholesale warehouses in Hawaii as staffers work to keep shoppers 6 feet apart as recommended during the coronavirus pandemic.
Costco workers are also moderating the number of shoppers entering the store to make the distancing possible.
Lines start forming hours before doors open, and there are limits on a list of about two dozen high-demand items, among them toilet paper, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and soap.
This has been ongoing for several weeks now, when the state Health Department recommended preparing a 14-day emergency supply kit to prepare for COVID-19.
While the department was referring mostly to medications and nonperishable food, the public in Hawaii and worldwide responded by rushing out and buying up toilet paper, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.
Stores have various limits in place for these items. Safeway, for example, limits customers to two bath tissue packages and two Clorox wipes per customer. Times Supermarkets limits customers to two packages of ground beef and three packages of eggs per household.
Other wiped-out items include pasta, paper towels, canned goods, vitamins and bacon.
A sales associate at Target said toilet paper is restocked nightly but gone within the first hour after opening. A Safeway worker said toilet paper is restocked twice a week and pretty much gone as soon as it hits the shelves.
Not all grocery stores on Oahu have lines outside their doors, however.
On a recent, early afternoon visit to Target, Safeway and Foodland in Kailua, there were no lines outside the door, and customers — a few wearing face masks — entered freely.
Some Oahu grocers have reduced hours to allow for restocking, set special hours aside for store workers and started opening early for seniors and the disabled to shop.
Food samples are out, as are self-service food bars. Many food items are now prepackaged to go.
Last week Foodland, Foodland Farms and Sack N Save stores statewide announced they would set aside the first hour of business on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for seniors to shop in less crowded conditions through April 30.
Starting Monday, Foodland also reduced its store hours to 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., new hours that it said were already implemented on Kauai due to the Garden Isle’s mandated curfew.
The local grocer is asking customers to follow social distancing guidelines and placing tape on the floor in areas where there are lines, including checkout and the service counter for poke.
Customers who bring their own reusable bags are asked to bag their own groceries to avoid contact with cashiers and courtesy clerks. Employees may wear face masks.
“All of us at Foodland take our responsibility to serve our community very seriously as we know our customers depend on us — especially during times of crisis,” said Jenai S. Wall, Foodland chairman and CEO, in a statement.
Target announced on its website that it has set aside time for its team members to shop for household essentials, with the same limits as customers, to recognize their dedication during challenging times.
Target has also adjusted its hours to close earlier for restocking.
Whole Foods Market self-serve areas, including its hot bars, salad and antipasto bars are temporarily closed, along with seating at its eateries. Whole Foods and Down to Earth have invited seniors 60 and older to shop during special morning hours as well.
Costco, Safeway, Tamura’s and Times are also offering special hours for seniors and those with physical disabilities.
Special hours for seniors age 60 and over and the immunocompromised, by grocers*
>> Foodland: 6-7 a.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday
>> Safeway: 7-8 a.m. Tuesday, Thursday
>> Target: 7-8 a.m. Wednesday
>> Times Supermarkets: First hour at stores that open at 6 a.m., and first two hours at stores that open at 5 a.m. Store opening hours vary.
>> Tamura’s Market: 7:15-8 a.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday
>> Costco: 8-9 a.m. Tuesday, Thursday
>> Whole Foods Market: 7-8 a.m. daily
>> Down to Earth Organic & Natural: 7-8 a.m. daily
* Times subject to change.