(WCMH) — Grocery stores across the country are opening later, closing earlier, and eliminating 24-hour operations as they struggle with staff shortages due to the spread of COVID-19.

Sierra King says she is disappointed she can’t go to the grocery store after a late night of work.

“I would say they are closing at 10 or 11 now, but they used to be open 24 hours,” she said.

Mary Wright can no longer shop late at night either.

“The stores would be open till 11, and now the stores have gone down further from that,” she said.

“Perfect storm” reducing hours

Ray Dietrich, the owner of the Rivertown IGA grocery store in Ohio, reduced his hours to 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. for the winter. However, hopes to stay up until 10 p.m. this spring.

“A lot of people are sick, and the more people that are sick, the tighter supplies get, the less truck drivers we have,” Dietrich said.

Dietrich says every day is an unknown, not knowing whether the truck they expected will show up. He says it’s even unclear what will be on the truck.

Sick employees and fewer workers are other issues he’s facing.

“Yeah, we got openings. I won’t lie to you,” he said. “We got an ad out right now for help wanted.”

Stores are using the few night employees they do have to restock shelves, rather than work the cash registers.

Walmart ended 24-hour operations when the pandemic hit and has no plans to resume them. Kroger also ended 24-hour operations at most of its grocery chains in 2020. Starbucks has reduced evening hours at many stores.

Dietrich says everyone at his family-owned store is working harder to compensate for the short staffing.

“We can make it work,” he said. “We all cover for each other.”

But with so many grocery workers in quarantine nationwide, shoppers need to expect earlier closing surprises until spring. So check those hours, so you don’t make a wasted trip, and you don’t waste your money.


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