Marco Island, South Naples shoppers find empty shelves

Will Watts

Visits to Winn-Dixie and the two Publix stores on Marco Island, as well as the Walmart on Collier Boulevard in South Naples revealed some empty shelves, especially when it came to toilet paper, hand sanitizers and most Lysol products.

More:Seafood fest, business expo canceled in Marco Island amid worldwide coronavirus outbreak

At the Publix on San Marco, fresh fruit and produce also took a hit on Saturday. At the South Naples Walmart, pasta and canned vegetables were also at a minimum.

Starting March 14, Publix decided to close retail stores at 8 p.m. nightly. The Lakeland-based grocery store giant issued a statement Friday night amid the coronavirus news:

"To better serve our customers, give our store teams time to conduct additional preventive sanitation and restock product on our shelves, beginning Saturday, March 14 we will adjust store and pharmacy hours companywide to close at 8 p.m. until further notice."

More:Coronavirus Florida: Publix to close retail stores at 8 p.m. nightly starting March 14

Late Saturday, Walmart announced stores would restrict hours to 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. until further notice, the company.

"This will help ensure associates are able to stock the products our customers are looking for and to perform cleaning and sanitizing," Dacona Smith, executive vice president and chief operating officer, Walmart U.S., wrote in a blog post.

The coronavirus is spurring panicked shoppers to stock up on products ranging from cleansing wipes to peanut butter as they prepare to hunker down during the growing pandemic.

Social media reaction was swift Friday night with many praising the grocery chain and their local Publix and others lamenting at the lack of toilet paper, hand sanitizer and other supplies.

Publix's decision to close their stores two hours early was announced the same day Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered all Florida public schools to extend spring break closures, including here in Collier County.

Publix has more than 830 stores in Florida, with over 1,200 in the southern U.S.

Winn Dixie issued a statement saying they have seen a supply disruption on hand sanitizers and household cleaners and have very limited availability in stores. The grocery store is asking customers to limit their purchases.