Coronavirus shoppers: Costco, Walgreens join stores with special times for seniors, others

Seniors line up outside a Gelson's Market in Manhattan Beach early Wednesday
Seniors line up outside a Gelson’s Market in Manhattan Beach early Wednesday. Hermosa Beach resident Aileen Martin, 73, center, was first in line at 6:25 a.m.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

As concerns over the coronavirus outbreak grow and lengthy lines that resemble those for theme park rides snake their way outside grocery stores before the sun even comes up, many retailers have announced they are setting aside time for seniors (65 and up at most stores) and other at-risk populations to do their shopping in a less-crowded environment.

Here are some of the outlets that have designated special shopping hours, though customers are urged to call ahead to confirm:

Retailers are setting aside time for seniors and other vulnerable populations to do their shopping in a less-crowded environment.

March 19, 2020


The supermarket chain — which includes Albertsons, Pavilions, Vons and Safeway, among other brands — said it is reserving every Tuesday and Thursday from 7 to 9 a.m. for seniors, pregnant women, those with compromised immune systems and other at-risk populations.

“We are sensitive to the fact that everyone wants to make sure they have the items they need, and we also know that everyone wants their neighbors to stay safe and healthy too,” President and Chief Executive Vivek Sankaran said in a statement. “We are asking our customers to respect these special hours for those who are most at risk in our communities.”


However, a reporter who visited an Albertsons in Los Feliz on Thursday morning found that store employees were unaware of the special hours.

Big Saver Foods

The chain is offering two special shopping hours before stores open to the wider public. Medical and pharmacy employees with valid identification can shop from 6 to 7 a.m.; seniors and those who have disabilities can do so from 7 to 8 a.m.


Starting Tuesday, Costco will offer special operating hours for shoppers who are at least 60 years old.

The designated windows will be from 8 to 9 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In-store pharmacies also will be open during those periods, but food courts will continue operating on their normal schedule.


Seniors can start shopping at 7 a.m., one hour before stores open to all customers.

Northgate Market

Stores will be open exclusively for seniors and customers with disabilities from 7 to 8 a.m. daily.


Starting Friday,March 20, all All locations are open to seniors only from 7 to 7:30 a.m. daily.

“Ralphs wants to provide these at-risk customers with the ability to purchase the items they need to avoid busier and more crowded shopping times,” Director of Corporate Affairs John Votava said in a statement. “We request that customers respect this change for the health of our community during this time of uncertainty.”


Smart & Final

Stores open 30 minutes early, from 7:30 to 8 a.m., for seniors and those with disabilities.

Stater Bros. Markets

All locations open at 7:45 a.m. for seniors.

“We acknowledge and appreciate the outpouring of customer support for our store employees,” Chief Executive Pete Van Helden said in a statement. “Remember, we are doing everything we can to serve you and we are in this together.”

Super A Foods

Pregnant women, seniors and those with disabilities will be able to shop starting at 7 a.m. — one hour before stores open to the wider public.

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March 19, 2020


The first hour every Wednesday will be reserved for “vulnerable” shoppers, such as seniors and those with underlying health concerns.

Vallarta Supermarkets

Stores will be open from 7 to 8 a.m. for seniors, pregnant women and those with disabilities.


Tuesdays are now “Seniors Day” at the chain — with a designated shopping hour, from 8 to 9 a.m., and other special offers available for those who are at least 55 years old.



From March 24 through April 28, stores will open one hour early every Tuesday for customers who are least 60 years old.

Whole Foods Market

The chain is allowing customers 60 and older to begin shopping an hour before stores open to the general public.

While grocery shelves stripped bare — particularly of toilet paper and hand sanitizer — have become increasingly common sights, officials have repeatedly emphasized that the bigger issue is demand, rather than supply.

Ronald Fong, president of the California Grocers Assn., said markets are struggling to restock shelves because so many customers are buying an overabundance of food and supplies.

He urged customers to return to their normal grocery shopping routine, saying there is no shortage of food or necessities — just an overwhelmed supply chain to the stores.

“The grocery stores are what the governor has deemed an essential service,” Fong said. “Grocery stores are going to stay open. But we cannot keep up with a shopping pattern that customers have adopted by overbuying.”


Times staff writers Phil Willon, Hannah Fry and Rong-Gong Lin II contributed to this report.