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Hardware stores see business growing, need for safe practices increasing

Hardware stores are considered an essential business in Kentucky but stores are looking for ways to increase social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- At 8:30 a.m., there are already some people waiting outside Brownsboro Hardware and Paint, separated by at least 6 feet and waiting for their turn to enter Jim Lehrer's store.

"We're letting folks in the store on a limited basis - one leaves, one can go in," Lehrer, the owner, said. "It's been a learning curve for everybody. The social distancing people get for the most part."

Hardware stores are considered essential businesses in Kentucky, which means Brownsboro Hardware is allowed to stay open for customers as long as staff and customers are practicing proper social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For Lehrer, these increased safety measures include limiting his hours, encouraging customers to order online for delivery or curbside pickup, sanitizing the store every day and making sure people stand at least six feet apart when they are inside the store or waiting outside to get in.

"What our customers find is they can get in and out very quickly, so there's not the huge crowds that have caused problems at other retailers," he said.

Other retailers like Home Depot and Lowe's have seen long lines of people waiting outside their stores, prompting some customers and passers-by to worry about the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"We’ve cancelled our major spring promotions to avoid driving customers into stores and are limiting the number of customers in stores, aggressively reiterating physical distancing and reminding customers on our PA system, and we're closing early to sanitize," Margaret Watters Smith, a spokesperson for Home Depot, wrote in an email. "Promoting safety is a top priority for us.

A spokesperson for Lowe's wrote in an email their stores are now closing at 7 p.m. daily to restock essential supplies and to sanitize the store. She said all Lowe's stores are also taking preventative measures and following CDC guidelines, which includes putting putting up signage and making overhead announcements every 15 minutes to remind customers about the need for social distancing.

"Because the layouts and sizes of our stores vary so widely, we are empowering store managers to start limiting customer capacity when it reaches a threshold unique to their store," Sarah Lively with Lowe's said. "Within 24 hours, we created and deployed an app to all associate smart phones that counts customer traffic and alerts the team to changes they need to make, such as placing associates at entrances to only allow customers in when other customers leave."

While Lehrer doesn't see the type of crowds the big box retailers do, he said busines has still been up the last few weeks, which makes it even more important for him and his staff to stay on top of keeping people safe.

"They're at home," he said. "They got a lot of projects and to-do lists and they want to keep occupied and not think about the horrible coronavirus."

►Contact reporter Dennis Ting at dting@whas11.com. Follow him on Twitter (@DennisJTing) and Facebook.  

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