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The Wall Street Journal has a long piece about the challenges facing Wegmans in the current competitive environment.

"Wegmans became one of the country’s most famous grocery store chains by lavishly pampering its customers with cooking demonstrations, restaurants and movie nights," the Journal writes.  "Now every customer is a potential risk.

"The shift required by the age of Covid-19 represents an existential challenge to the 104-year-old family-owned company as it upends a shopping experience that made it a household name across the U.S. Northeast.

"The chain’s famed food bars, which sell everything from pizza to sushi, are closed. Its beloved free samples are gone. It removed varieties of pasta sauce, yogurt and butter as Wegmans loaded up on basic staples. Its stores—built to resemble European-style market halls—now feature plexiglass dividers at cash registers and more security guards to keep customers in line/

"'A huge part of our business has been treating our customers really as guests and entertaining them. We can’t do that anymore,' Danny Wegman, Wegmans Food Markets Inc.’s 73-year-old chairman, said in an interview. 'We lost our mojo. We have to replace it'."

The Journal cites some of the impacts:

•  "The company closed the large on-site restaurants which comprise roughly 10% of its sales. In-house chefs have been redeployed to work registers, run sanitation and manage carts in parking lots. Seafood departments stopped displaying fish on ice and deli counters stopped slicing deli meats to order. Also gone were the copious free samples and a dozen or so cooking demonstrations each store held every week."

•  "Wegmans lowered the number of shoppers and workers in its stores to a 15-20% capacity. It also introduced job-protected voluntary leave to part-time and full-time employees at stores and warehouses."

•  "Customers were required to wear masks, and stores closed their doors if lines at checkout went more than two deep. To ensure distancing between customers and cashiers, Wegmans taped indicators throughout stores and placed plexiglass dividers at cash registers."

•  "The company declined to disclose the number of employees who have tested positive, but said less than 0.5% of its workforce have been affected."

And now, "With more areas in the U.S. reopening, Wegmans leaders are rethinking how much food and how much customer experience it can offer—and how much customers will want … The company is learning that shoppers will accept fewer options and executives are thinking carefully about the level of assortment they will need in the future. Leaders see long-term opportunities with prepared family meals, as people cook more lunches and dinners at home. Wegmans will focus on affordability and ways to bring services online. The grocer continues to add more room on its floors by removing displays or making them smaller."

The Rye Daily Voice, meanwhile, has a story about Wegmans' plans to open a store in Harrison, New York, in the city's Westchester suburbs.  Originally planned for an early June opening, the new Wegmans store's debut has been delayed, with "no announced date for a new hard opening … and due to social distancing practices, no grand opening celebrations will be held."

KC's View:

It is interesting that Danny Wegman referred to have to "replace" the company's lost mojo, not "regain" it.

I am confident that the folks at Wegmans will figure this out, and that the stores will be better for it.  I'd even suggest that while the circumstances prompting these decisions and adjustments are far from what one would want, I think this will be a good thing for the company.

Internal disruption and renewal always is a good thing.  A little discomfort can be a positive experience.  That's where Wegmans' folks find themselves, and that's okay.  They'll embrace it.