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Whole Foods Market is converting several stores to only fulfill online orders for grocery delivery because of the coronavirus pandemic.

USA TODAY

Whole Foods Market is the latest retailer to adjust to the way consumer behavior is changing during the coronavirus pandemic.

To help meet increased demand, the Amazon-owned grocery store chain is temporarily converting a few stores to only fulfill online orders for grocery delivery.

“With stay-at-home orders in place, customers have generated unprecedented demand for grocery delivery,” Whole Foods said in a statement. “As we navigate the challenges associated with COVID-19, we continue to find ways to increase delivery availability while navigating safety measures and social distancing.”

The company gave USA TODAY an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look Friday at the conversion of one of the first stores, Bryant Park in New York City, which is now “focused 100% on fulfilling grocery delivery.”

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The Whole Foods Inner Harbor, Baltimore location also transitioned to online-only this week and the San Francisco SoMa location is now open until 1 p.m. daily to the public and then exclusively for online orders after 1.

Kroger has also converted one of its Cincinnati-area stores to a pickup-only location in late March.

On-demand grocery shopping for delivery and curbside pickup also have been popular at other retailers as shoppers look to make fewer trips into stores, but shoppers have been met with long waits for delivery and pickup windows. Instacart and Shipt also have been adding staff to keep up with demand.

Walmart is now reserving an hour each day for pickup orders for first responders and shoppers most at risk for the coronavirus.

Amazon outlined other moves for Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh in a blog post Sunday, which include:

  • Adding grocery pickup from around 80 stores to more than 150. The company said it “will continue to quickly expand grocery pickup in the coming weeks.”
  • Hiring more than 100,000 people since March 16, including for grocery delivery, and is looking to fill 75,000 additional roles.
  • Temporarily asking new Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh delivery and pickup customers to sign up for an invitation to use online grocery delivery and pickup. The company says it’s “increasing capacity each week and will invite new customers to shop every week.”
  • Releasing delivery windows throughout the day and the company said it has also “made it easier for customers to see when the next delivery window is available” on the Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh homepages.
  • In the coming weeks, there are plans to “launch a new feature allowing customers to secure time to shop,” which will give delivery customers a virtual “place in line.” 

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Contributing: Alexander Coolidge, Cincinnati Enquirer

Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko

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