COVID-19 Recommendations for Grocery and Retail Stores

Retails stores play an essential role in every community by ensuring safe and reliable access to food, medications, supplies and other provisions. At the same time, it is critical for everyone to adjust how they operate in these environments, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Here are some helpful tips to keep your staff and customers safe.

Best Practices for Infection Control

  • Place hand sanitizer with a minimum of 60 per cent ethyl alcohol in dispensers near doors, pay stations and other high-touch locations for customer and staff use. Make wipes and trash bins available for wiping down shopping carts and baskets and disposing of the wipes.
  • In addition to routine cleaning, clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces (such as point of sale transaction equipment, phones, doorknobs, carts, hand baskets, bagging areas, counters, and hand rails) at least twice a day and when visibly dirty.
  • If they can withstand the use of liquids for disinfection, frequently touched electronics such as phones, computers and other devices may be disinfected with 70 per cent alcohol (for example, alcohol prep wipes).
  • Provide clean carry-out bags for purchased food and grocery products. Encourage customers not use their own containers, reusable bags or boxes.
  • Post signs at each check out counter that customer packaging is not to be used or placed on check out counters.
  • Do NOT sell bulk items, except in gravity feed bins or where staff dispense the bulk items while wearing appropriate protective equipment.
  • Remove any product sampling stations.
  • Post a notice at the entrance to your store, asking customers who arrive with cold, flu or COVID-19 like symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) to return home. Refer to delivery service options, and suggest they have a friend or loved one shop for them.

Best Practices for Handling Sales

  • Allow customers to scan credit cards and loyalty cards themselves, wherever possible.
  • Employees who handle cash or credit card must wash their hands frequently with soap and water. This includes before and after breaks, before and at the end of their shift, and before and after preparing or handling food.
  • If operators and employees choose to wear gloves (vinyl, nitrile or latex as a last resort, as this is a common allergen), wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if water is not available) before and after putting on and taking off gloves.
  • Employees should remove gloves, dispose of them and change into new gloves before and after breaks and before preparing or handling food.
  • Offer online or phone orders with delivery or pickup services as alternatives to shopping in person.

Best Practices for Physical Distancing

  • A two-metre physical distance should be maintained between employees and customers unless there is a physical barrier (for example, Plexiglass).
  • The maximum number of people in the store (including employees) at any one time is one person per four square metres (two metres by two metres) of retail floor space.
  • Have clear signs in multiple locations that indicate the maximum number of customers and staff a store can accommodate at any one time.
  • Monitor the number of customers and staff entering and leaving the store. Once the maximum number of persons for a store is reached, allow one person in for each person who leaves.
  • Ensure that two metres’ physical distance is maintained for any customers waiting outside to enter your facility. You may consider placing markers to indicate how far people should stand from each other.
  • Place markers on the floor at check-out aisles to ensure customers maintain a two metre physical distance from one another.
  • If aisles are not wide enough for customers to physically distance themselves while in the aisles, consider placing arrows to indicate that aisles are one way.
  • Close any seating or dine-in area that may be in the store.
  • Arrange for staff to restock shelves outside of store operating hours, or limit the number of staff per aisle stocking items during operating hours.

Recommendations for Vulnerable Populations

  • Consider dedicating the first hour of operation for customers from vulnerable populations, for customers over 65 or for those with a compromised immune system.
  • Other practices for consideration include offering a pre-order/pick up/delivery model to limit interactions.


  • If an employee has recently returned from outside Canada, they must self-isolate for 14 days.
  • Screen your staff for symptoms at the beginning of each shift.
  • Staff should self-monitor daily for symptoms of COVID-19, including days they are not working.
  • Staff should stay home when they feel sick (for example, cough, fever, difficulty breathing).
  • Place posters in common areas to remind staff of hand hygiene and good respiratory etiquette, maintaining physical distance and not touching their face.
  • Remind staff and customers to cover coughs/sneezes with a tissue, and then throw the tissue in the trash. Use appropriate hand washing measures after using tissues.
  • If employees must use public transportation to come to work, consider flexible hours to allow them to avoid peak travel periods.
  • Make a plan for how employees will return home without using public transit if they develop symptoms at work.

To protect themselves and others, all employees should take the following precautions:

  • Before starting work and before and after breaks, staff should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, when possible.
  • Stay home when they are sick.
  • Cover their cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash, and wash hands.
  • In addition to routine cleaning, clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces twice a day with appropriate products.
  • If they can withstand the use of liquids for disinfection, frequently touched electronics such as phones, computers and other devices may be disinfected with 70 per cent alcohol (for example, alcohol prep wipes).


BC Centre for Disease Control. (2020, March 28). COVID-19 Guidance to Retail Food and Grocery Stores. Retrieved April 6, 2020, from

Ottawa Public Health. (2020). COVID-19 Guidance for Retail Stores – Including Grocery Stores and Pharmacies. Retrieved April 6, 2020, from—Retail-Stores.pdf

Adapted from:

Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services

Document Number 3266254



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1 Response to COVID-19 Recommendations for Grocery and Retail Stores

  1. Pingback: COVID-19 Business Resources and Updates: Oakville Chamber

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