It's an unusual move, but one born of unusual circumstances. One Kroger (KR -1.69%) store near its corporate headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio, has closed its doors to walk-in shoppers and now only serves customers picking up online orders. Now being referred to as the Mt. Carmel Grocery Pickup Center, the grocery chain hopes the decision will be an effective response to the increased demand for online grocery shopping and help stem the spread of the coronavirus contagion.

Other Kroger stores that already offered pickup services will still do so, and the company has not indicated how long the Mt. Carmel store will maintain this shift in its operation. The company has called this decision a pilot, however, suggesting it may do the same at other locations if the COVID-19 pandemic persists.

View from a shopping cart in a grocery store aisle

Image source: Getty Images.

The approach also gives the grocer an opportunity to more equitably distribute consumer staples in an environment where some shoppers are buying excessive amounts of certain sorts of household supplies. Earlier this month, even before the coronavirus took a firm grip on the United States, some consumers were hoarding items like hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and bottled water, prompting Kroger to impose purchasing limits. Certain items in some locations are consistently out of stock or unavailable for online purchases.

To help keep up with demand -- as different as it may be now -- Kroger also announced this week it's looking to hire another 20,000 workers nationwide, with 250 of them expected to work at the Mt. Carmel Grocery Pickup Center.