Shoppers in Vermont searching for items like toys and clothing in the aisles of Walmart, Target and Costco will have to go elsewhere to find them.
The state's Agency of Commerce and Community Development announced on Tuesday that to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, it has ordered big-box retailers to limit its in-person sales to only essential items, including food, beverages and medicine.
The order declared a host of goods — from clothing, toys, electronics and jewelry to paint, gardening and sports equipment — off limits to in-store customers.
"Large ‘big box’ retailers generate significant shopping traffic by virtue of their size and the variety of goods offered in a single location,” said Agency of Commerce and Community Development Secretary Lindsay Kurrle in a news release.
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Kurrle continued: "This volume of shopping traffic significantly increases the risk of further spread of this dangerous virus to Vermonters and the viability of Vermont’s health care system. We are directing these stores to put public health first and help us reduce the number of shoppers by requiring on-line ordering, delivery and curbside pickup whenever possible, and by stopping the sale of non-essential items."
The order demands that big-box stores restrict access to nonessentials by closing off aisles and other parts of the store or by removing them from the floor. Stores can still sell these goods online or through curbside pickup.
Tuesday's announcement came one week after Vermont Gov. Phil Scott issued an executive order requiring all businesses in the state to halt "in-person business operations" — with the exception of "grocery stores, pharmacies, other retail that sells food, beverage, animal feed and essential supplies."
The Vermont order is just the latest adjustment for big-box retailers during the coronavirus outbreak. Target has paused in-store returns and reduced hours. Costco has also established restrictions to encourage social distancing and no longer allows returns on high-demand items, like toilet paper and paper towels.
Big-box retailers have also joined many businesses in offering special shopping hours for senior citizens, who are more at risk for COVID-19 complications.