By ANDREW FOERCH Staff Reporter While the Valley region’s retail sector has temporarily gone dark, grocery stores have been busier than ever as throngs of shoppers rush to stock up in preparation for days or weeks spent at home. Grocery chains are responding in different ways to the deluge of customers and associated health risks they bring. “Any grocery store you look at now, come 6 a.m., there’s a line,” said Vanessa Rosales, director of corporate affairs for Kroger’s Food 4 Less division. Kroger also owns the Ralphs banner. To curb crowds and comply with social distancing recommendations, Rosales said managers at both Ralphs and Food 4 Less are limiting the number of people allowed to enter its stores when necessary. Security guards at health-conscious chain Sprouts, which has stores in Burbank, Granada Hills, West Hills, Woodland Hills, Santa Clarita and Simi Valley, have also been limiting entry to 20 customers at a time. In dealing with demand that outweighs immediate supply, brands including Ralphs and Food 4 Less, Sprouts and Vons, owned by Albertson’s Cos., have enforced product purchase limits on the number of cold, flu and sanitary products a customer may buy in a single trip to prevent hoarding and reselling. Sprouts Senior Communications Manager Diego Romero said: “During these unprecedented times, we have seen an increase in demand and have some purchase limits on products in stores. Our employees are doing the best they can to get products on the shelves round the clock.” Kroger’s Rosales added: “We don’t want hoarders to take 20 boxes of Kleenex. We’re asking everybody to buy just what they need for a week. We’ll be here next week.” Trader Joe’s, too, has implemented a strict purchase limit of two of any given food or sanitation product per customer. Additionally, several brands including Ralphs and Food 4 Less, all banners owned by Albertsons Cos., Walmart Inc., Costco Wholesale Corp. and Target Corp. have issued exclusive hours for senior citizens – the demographic identified as having the highest risk of both contracting coronavirus and developing health complications from the illness. Nearly every grocery chain has released statements detailing their heightened sanitization efforts, particularly in more frequent cleanings of high-touch areas such as restrooms, registers, grocery carts and hand-baskets. As for worries regarding the region’s supply chain, grocery executives held a public conference March 16 with L.A Mayor Eric Garcetti to quell concerns. “Supply chains are completely uninterrupted and there is no shortage of food,” Garcetti said in a video recording of the conference. According to Sprouts’ Romero, “We’re confident in our supply chain. … While there is a high demand, we ask customers to be mindful of their neighbors and only buy what they need. We do believe we’ll continue to service them over the next weeks and months.” Kroger’s Rosales said the company’s three regional distribution centers in Paramount, Compton and Riverside are fully stocked, but suppliers are beginning to set limits on the amount of products they can sell to each of their grocery customers. “They’re being fair in making sure customers can buy products anywhere those products are carried,” she said. The consumer rush has led many grocery chains to seek additional employees. Ralphs and Food 4 Less, Rosales said, are looking to hire 400 cashiers, stockroom associates and other positions in California alone. Sprouts is looking fill 2,000 jobs nationwide in its grocery stores, distribution centers and support offices.