The employees of Carrefour in Shanghai sleep in the stores to guarantee uninterrupted supplies for nearby residents. Manager Zhang sleeps in her office and wakes up at five in the morning to help here employees prepare more than 3,000 orders of vegetables, meat, and other necessities.
Manager Zhang and 43 other employees have been locked in the Xujiang Carrefour store since the first of April. They remain in a so-called 'closed loop' to avoid the spread of Covid-19. Meanwhile, they continue to prepare food orders for neighborhoods in the area.
More than one thousand grocery stores remained open throughout the lockdown of Shanghai. And the municipal government works hard to open up more stores.
A Carrefour store in Shanghai after the most recent outbreak of Covid-19
"We have no time to rest. We work the entire day, even when we have our meals, we still respond to members of nearby neighborhood committees who come to collect their orders or have other requests for necessities. We are here to help," said manager Zhang.
More than 25 million residents went into lockdown when the most recent wave of Covid-19 engulfed Shanghai in early April.
Companies from factories to banks can only remain open under 'closed loop' conditions. Workers are required to live on site. They disinfect the site and the products every couple of hours. And they take daily Covid-19 tests. That is how China attempts to bring the spread of Covid-19 to a halt.
Carrefour employees during the lockdown in Shanghai
The numbers of daily Covid-19 infections are showing a downward trend. Still, Shanghai remains in lockdown. Authorities encourage more businesses to open up, especially restaurants, but there are limitations to this approach as many employees are unable to leave their family unattended. This has an effect on the supply chain.
The Carrefour of manager Zhang has around 110 employees, but only half of them are currently working. The regulations have been relaxed a little bit, so a few employees will be able to return home while others replace them. Manager Zhang and her employees will remain in the store until the lockdown is over, but it is unclear how long that will last.
More than half of the 30 Carrefour stores in Shanghai are open for offline orders. Carrefour China is owned by tech giant Suning Group (002024.SZ). They hope to re-open the remaining stores soon.
Carrefour store during the Shanghai lockdown
The greatest worry for Shanghai residents is buying fresh vegetables. Most residents have been in lockdown for at least three weeks, and the end is not in sight. More stores are opening and express delivery services gradually resume operations, which helps to alleviate the situation.
As the weeks went by, manager Zhang noticed that demand for baby milk powder, adult diapers, and similar necessities grew stronger.
Manager Zhang started working at Carrefour in Yunnan sixteen years ago. Although the working hours are long, she remains optimistic. She sees her work as an important social responsibility.
The 38-year old manager Zhang and her team have daily discussions with neighborhood officials concerning the products that residents require. There are about 210,000 residents in the area supplied by the Xujing Carrefour.
The Carrefour employees have all found a private spot in the three-floor store where they sleep at night, some even set up tents for additional privacy. Carrefour supplies protective gear, such as hazmat suits, and doubled the wages.
The store is fortunate to have showers.
"We have seen spring turn into summer here," said manager Zhang. Once the lockdown is lifted, manager Zhang plans to visit her parents in Yunnan.
"But I will remain here to hold down the fort until the lockdown is truly over. No matter how long that will take," said manager Zhang.