Retailers respond to COVID-19: Lewis Drug

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Crisis highlights the importance of community-based chains.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of articles on how retailers are responding to the COVID-19 crisis.

Here at Lewis Drug, keeping our customers and our associates safe is our top priority. As always, despite the ongoing news surrounding coronavirus (COVID-19), our stores and pharmacies are open and remain ready to serve you.

Mark Griffin

I want to assure you that the entire Lewis family is taking precautionary steps to protect our customers, communities and team members.

We are monitoring reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and meeting daily with our teams to ensure we are leveraging best practices for a clean and safe environment.

We have stepped up our daily cleaning and disinfecting procedures, have educated our team members on the CDC’s guidelines for personal hygiene, and are strongly encouraging frequent hand washing, as well as the use of hand sanitizer.

At the same time, we have established social distancing protocols at all of our stores, such as monitoring the numbers of shoppers to ensure our customers and our employees are as safe as possible and to limit the spread of the virus. The size of our larger-format stores makes establishing these boundaries a little easier, so our store associates are focused on the well-being of our shoppers and our loss prevention teams have essentially turned into sanitation teams, keeping shopping carts wiped down and our floors, bathrooms and counters clean.

We’re doing everything we can to provide a safe space for our customers to come in and get what they need.

Next to personal safety and health, our primary challenge is to keep this crisis real while cutting through the hype. We have to find the balance between panic and genuine concern while putting in place reasonable and practical precautionary measures.

As a country, and as a company, we’ve been through crises before in which we had to get through the hype and fear and deal with the problem at hand, such as the swine flu in 2009 that killed some 10,000 ­Americans.

So, while we must take action and take this latest pandemic seriously, we also have to keep it in perspective and know that we will come through this. We also have to keep in mind that the economy is in crisis, too, and do whatever we can while the virus is still spreading to keep the wheels of the economy turning — and at Lewis we’re committed to doing both.

Fortunately, our corporate staff has remained healthy, and all at Lewis, at our headquarters and in our stores, are displaying the South Dakota work ethic — working hard for our customers, which, for us, is business as usual.

Bob Meyer, our senior vice president of merchandise and marketing, along with his team, is working hard to make sure our shelves are fully stocked. Of course, we are facing some challenges with certain supplies, such as hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes. Some of these supplies have been commandeered by FEMA at the source, but we understand this is a unique time, and we hope those products are being put to good use.

As Lewis is considered an essential service by the federal government and the Department of Homeland Security, we will continue to be up and running here in South Dakota as well as in our stores in Minnesota and Iowa.

As I said, we will get through this crisis, and I believe it will serve as a wake-up call for America in that it will shine a spotlight on how important the drug store and local pharmacy industries are for this country and its citizens, especially in a time of crisis.

Mark Griffin is president and chief executive officer of Lewis Drug.



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