Stores encourage customers to limit 'panicky purchases'

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Grocery stores are limiting hours and urging "preparedness over panic" in order to keep shelves stocked.

On Friday, H-E-B announced stores in the Houston area will shift to modified hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Joe V's Smart Shop, Mi Tienda and Central Market are also included in that change.

Kroger shifted hours from 6 a.m. to midnight. The temporary changes will help keep shelves stocked and ensure customers have access to products, said store officials.

The run on grocery stores amid coronavirus fears continued Friday with long lines and packed parking lots.

It's a race to buy that is not necessary, said Kroger's Houston Division President Joe Kelley.

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"Preparedness over panic. It allows more people to buy things at the same time. This thing is going to pass over time like anything," Kelley said.

Stores are being replenished 24 hours a day and distribution centers are on pace, according to Kelley. At Kroger's Houston distribution center on Gellhorn in northeast Houston, trucks were coming and going.

Kroger activated a preparedness plan weeks ago. The rush has been surprising, says Kelley, but not overwhelming.

"We'll have plenty of groceries, plenty of food and we'll be here for the community," Kelley said.

In a video statement released Friday, Scott McClelland, H-E-B President Food/Drug had the same message. He reassured customers while images of a busy distribution center played.

"H-E-B is going to have plenty of product. It's coming every day. There's not a need for you to go out and buy because you can come back again tomorrow," McClelland said.

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