How Essential Retailers are Helping Their Communities During COVID-19

Industry Trends
May 11, 2020
Zipline Contributor

While no one wants to profit from a pandemic, the fact is that COVID-19 is creating financial winners and losers in retail. For many winners, it’s challenging to accept the positive economic benefit of a devastating global crisis without feeling guilty or wanting to help others. 

Seeing essential retailers, which have seen their revenue explode as a result of shelter-in-place regulations, focus efforts on helping to support their employees and their communities makes me proud to be part of this industry.

In this article, we look at how eight leading retailers are sharing their profits to help those less fortunate. What stands out to us is that these companies rolled out these programs in the midst of what can only be described as the most chaotic few weeks of these businesses’ existence. To be able to innovate, move quickly and coordinate these efforts is a testament to the leadership and values of these brands. 

Publix

At the end of April, Publix announced that it is purchasing fresh produce and milk to help farmers who suffered financially from the coronavirus pandemic. The supermarket chain is donating these products to food banks operating in the communities they serve. The company estimated that 150,000 pounds of produce and 43,500 gallons of milk were purchased and donated in the program's first week. Of the project, Publix CEO Todd Jones says, “As a food retailer, we have the unique opportunity to bridge the gap between the needs of families and farmers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.”

Lowes

Lowes has been front and center during the pandemic with its efforts supporting the community. The company made a $10 million donation in the form of essential protective products to help keep medical professionals on the frontlines healthy and safe. Funds were also dedicated to support the Lowe's Employee Relief Fund and offer small business relief for Pro customers. In addition, Lowes started a #BuildThanks campaign to applaud essential workers. The campaign encouraged their DIY community to use materials they have on hand to display thank you messages to front line workers on front lawns, in windows and porches everywhere.

Sam’s Club

Sam’s Club also dug into it’s COVID-19 profits to donate $1 million to Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a national nonprofit organization that provides financing to small businesses. Sam’s Club hopes that the donation will help its customers, small businesses, stay above water until the economy starts to reopen more broadly. Of the donation, Tony Rogers, Senior Vice President and Chief Member Officer, says, “Sam’s Club has a long history of helping small businesses save money and grow their businesses and we know many of our members work for or are small business owners. I’m proud to share that Sam’s Club is teaming up with LISC and our members to drive economic opportunity for communities across America.”

Kroger

The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation is directing hunger relief grants and resources to its communities through the Emergency COVID-19 Response Fund. So far, the grocer has committed $7 million. Kroger’s #ZeroHungerZeroWaste initiative aims to help America’s dairy farmers and producers reduce waste of surplus milk normally sold to restaurants, schools and hotels by buying it and donating it to food banks. Its expanded Dairy Rescue Program aims to donate about 200,000 gallons of additional milk to Feeding America food banks and community organizations.

Wegmans

On its press page, Wegmans said, “At times like these, everyone is called on to come together and support one another.” To support its communities, the New York-based grocer is providing food for people at risk of hunger by supporting local food banks that provide food directly to people in need. Wegmans is donating $4 million dollars, spread across all partner food banks. 

Albertsons Cos

CEO Vivek Sankaran says, “This time of extraordinary need demands an unprecedented response.” Given the need, Albertsons has pledged $50 million for hunger relief amid the COVID-19 crisis through its Nourishing Neighbors Community Relief campaign. With this investment in its communities, the company is certainly living its mission of ‘bettering the lives of people in our neighborhoods’. 

Dollar General

COVID-19 shuttered schools and changed the way kids learned. With approximately 55 million American school children currently home during the day, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation is making a $2 million dollar contribution to support Save the Children’s coronavirus response efforts across rural America. The donation helps to ensure that  children continue to learn and have access to nutritious food during nationwide school closures. Save the Children’s programs supported by this donation help provide resources to families to begin or continue at-home learning processes and distribute educational games and toys as well as hygiene materials and shelf-stable foods. 

Canadian Tire

At the beginning of April, Greg Hicks, President and CEO posted a message to customers saying, “In addition to doing everything we can to provide you with the essentials, we understand that we have an even bigger role to play in this crisis.” He announced the launch of the $5 million Canadian Tire COVID-19 Response Fund to help Canadians and communities respond to the pandemic. The fund is comprised of two donations of $1 million each to the Canadian Red Cross and United Way Centraide Canada, as well as up to $3 million in personal protective equipment (PPE) and essential products from across the family of Canadian Tire companies. 

The executives at these eight companies should be praised for the resources and money they are pouring into their communities. But the associates and managers of these retailers are responding as well. By going to work each day they are risking their health to ensure that their neighbors can buy the food and supplies they need to weather the pandemic at home. We are proud to play a role in keeping them safe by ensuring that critical information makes it way down to every employee and health and safety measures are effectively executed by stores. To learn more, be sure to watch our latest video.