Empty shelves on the aisles of our local grocery stores may come as a shock to us in the land of plenty, leaving many residents asking, where is all the food?
There are many factors at play here.
Hoarding and panic buying are a large part of the equation. If people were still buying their normal amount instead of, “maybe I should get a few extra just in case,” the shelves would not be empty.
Since the consumer demand has increased from fear and people buying for longer periods at once, this has created a supply issue across the nation. Brookshire's has hired over a thousand additional employees in the Smith county/Shreveport area alone.
Retailers are being placed under pressure as suppliers try and break up and distribute the supplies throughout the nation to accommodate the need.
For example, a grocery store may normally order 1,000 rolls of toilet paper, to meet increased demand they may currently attempt to order 2000 rolls. Suppliers feeling the pinch may only send 750 rolls. Then because of the panic buying, items are stripped from the shelves within 30 minutes to an hour of stocking them.
A representative for Brookshire's spoke to the Athens Review about the new challenges.
“Our people are dealing with vendors on an hourly basis to get the products that are in hot demand,” said Rosemary Jones, Executive Vice President/Chief people officer for Brookshire's. “We get them into the warehouse and then we get them on trucks trying to get them to the store. Once we get them to the store the hot items are gone.”
Although limits have been placed on hot items, customers are finding loopholes and finding ways to hoard.
Brookshire's has placed several safety procedures in place to try and reduce the risk of exposure to both employees and guests.
“We have placed marks on the floor demonstrating six feet, employees are allowed to wear gloves and masks even though the Center for Disease Control hasn't required it. We make gloves available but we are not able to get masks. We have provided sneeze and cough shields to protect both cashiers and customers,” Jones said.”We are checking temperatures, we have closed downs some of our checking lanes for example every other when possible. We have closed self service stations and given the rules to our partners to our vendors as well. They have to meet our guidelines.”
Brookshire's has created new sanitization practices as well.
“We are constantly cleaning throughout the day wiping down surfaces of high traffic areas,” Jones said. “This could be the new normal for the next month or two.”
They are also doing a weekly deep clean from top to bottom.
If an employee is suspected they are quarantined and they are encouraging anyone feeling sick to stay home. If an employee tests positive, a third party cleaning company is brought in to clean the entire facility.
“We have created a fund to pay them while in company doctor or CDC mandated quarantine to encourage them not to come when sick,” she said. “We consider our employees the real heroes, they are putting the groceries out every day.”
The huge uptake in customers desiring curbside pickup which normally equates to about 3% of sales has caused such a demand the chain is doubling the amount of orders it can accept. Customers can also use https://www.instacart.com
The company is trying to help senior citizens and first responders by allowing the 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. hours specifically for them to shop in a freshly cleaned store with a 5% discount to show Brookshire's support and appreciation.
“We are really trying to take care of our senior citizens and first responders,” Jones added.
Walmart announces increased safety procedures
Over the weekend Walmart Inc. released a statement regarding changes for employee and guest protection which started Saturday.
“In this taxing and uncertain time, our associates have gone above and beyond to help Americans get the food, medicine and supplies they need,” Dacona Smith, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Walmart U.S. stated. “We care deeply about our associates’ health and well-being, and in recent weeks we’ve taken steps such as expanding our paid leave policies; closing our stores overnight for cleanings and restocking; installing sneeze guards and social distance markers in stores; beginning temperature checks; and starting to make gloves and masks available to associates who want them.”
Smith went on to say that Walmart has seen both people respecting the social distancing requirements that they have also seen concerning behaviors in stores “putting undue risk on our people.”
Walmart Inc is requesting people bring as few household members as possible necessary. In order to provide further protection they have started regulating store entry
“Starting Saturday, we will limit the number of customers who can be in a store at once. Stores will now allow no more than five customers for each 1,000 square feet at a given time, roughly 20 percent of a store’s capacity,” Smith stated.
Associates have marked a queue at the single-entry door, and will be directing customers there. Customers will be allowed in one-by-one and counted. There will be employees reminding them of social distancing requirements and offer one-way aisles in some locations using floor markers and additional assistance from employee monitors to limit close contact amongst the customers. Once the store reaches capacity it will be one in one out.
Once customers check out, they will be directed to exit through a different door than they entered.
“We always want people to feel welcome at Walmart, and we know that in ordinary times a store is a gathering place for members of a community to connect and socialize. We look forward to the time when that is again the case; however, we now want to prioritize health and safety by encouraging customers to do their shopping at a distance from others, then head home. As the COVID-19 situation continues to develop, our leaders and operations teams will continue to listen to advice from medical experts, associates and customers, and consider how we can best serve people while helping slow the spread of the virus. The health and safety of our associates and customers is what matters the most,”
Rural areas are not experiencing as much of an issue with high traffic as larger more densely populated areas. At this time our local stores have not experience a huge disruption to normal flow.
For those not interested in braving the stores several local restaurants are offering groceries from their suppliers as well. Hunan's, Danny's Smokehouse, and Dana's Health Food Store are offering sales of some staples and meat.
Hunan's: To place your order call Sarah- 214 492 9834 or Jimmy- 915 790 8002
Danny's Smokehouse and BBQ: Facebook or 903-675-5238
Dana's Health Food: 903-675-2700