Florida’s leading grocery store says the move will give employees more time to clean stores and stock shelves as the state deals with COVID-19

Attention, shoppers: Your friendly neighborhood Publix needs time to restock.


The Lakeland-based grocery store giant issued a statement Friday night amid the coronavirus news:


"To better serve our customers, give our store teams time to conduct additional preventive sanitation and restock product on our shelves, beginning Saturday, March 14 we will adjust store and pharmacy hours companywide to close at 8 p.m. until further notice."


To better serve our customers, give our store teams time to conduct additional preventive sanitation and restock product on our shelves, beginning Saturday, March 14 we will adjust store and pharmacy hours companywide to close at 8 p.m. until further notice. pic.twitter.com/Lc0jRLtZwh

— Publix (@Publix) March 14, 2020

The early closure announcement did not address the Publix Greenwise Markets in Tallahassee, Boca Raton, Lakeland, Alabama and South Carolina. According to greenwisemarket.com, the Tallahassee location closes at 11 p.m. nightly, and the two other Florida sites close at 10 p.m. nightly.


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Social media reaction was swift Friday night with many praising the grocery chain and their local Publix and others lamenting at the lack of toilet paper, hand sanitizer and other supplies. Photos from readers show empty shelves in the cleaning aisle and empty produce bins as well.


You know it’s serious when Publix announces that they’re closing stores early at night

— (@analaacubana) March 14, 2020

So.... they don’t want to pay their employees overtime and are inconveniencing customers... I don’t shop there due to outrages prices so this just makes me not want to support them even more!!

— maria haxton (@haxton_maria) March 14, 2020

as someone who makes frequent 9:30pm runs to publix for tgi fridays mozzarella sticks this is a bit of an inconvenience https://t.co/ffVT37et56

— sean (@nwfltracking) March 14, 2020

With coronavirus cases increasing in the U.S., the grocery chain was not immune to panic buying. The novel coronavirus sparked a nationwide shopping frenzy. Publix's decision to close their stores two hours early was announced the same day Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered all Florida public schools to extend spring break closures.


Publix has more than 830 stores in Florida, with over 1,200 in the southern U.S.


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Other stores are also looking to adjust their hours to clean.


Walmart, the world's largest retailer, said it might trim hours at 24-hour locations to give the company more time to clean stores.


"We are evaluating whether to modify store hours at some 24-hour facilities to allow for additional cleaning," Walmart said in a statement.


Our statement regarding Walmart’s support of COVID-19 testing sites: pic.twitter.com/nD6P4FIkyR

— Walmart Inc. (@WalmartInc) March 13, 2020

Winn Dixie issued a statement saying they have seen a supply disruption on hand sanitizers and household cleaners, and have very limited availability in stores. The grocery store is asking customers to limit their purchases


All Wegmans locations will close overnight to allow the stores to be cleaned and items to restocked, the New York-based supermarket chain announced Friday, saying the temporary change was in response to high demand.



This story originally published to floridatoday.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the USA TODAY Network - Florida.