In response to increased customer shopping in the past week due to fears of the COVID-19 outbreak, local grocery stores are dealing with decreased amounts of stocked products, such as toilet paper, hand sanitizer, canned goods and bottled water, among many others.
“We went through a semi of toilet paper in just a few days,” said Janet Thomas, the volunteering manager at Down Home Discount.
Many large chain stores have changed their policies in order to fit the new demand, which have included methods such as limiting amounts of certain products bought per person, increasing or decreasing open hours depending on demand and employee availability, and giving employees temporary benefits to stay home if they feel sick.
Dacona Smith, chief operating officer of Walmart U.S., released a statement Mar. 14 detailing many Walmart’s extended hours, as well as the fact that their store employees, supply chain and trucking fleet will continue to work to keep stores stocked and serving the public, provided the associates are healthy enough to do so. CEO John Furner released a video statement to employees on Mar. 13 detailing his gratitude for diligent Walmart associates.
“I wanted to take a couple minutes and talk to you about everything that is going on right now, but I first want to say thank you so much for everything that you’ve done the past couple weeks and what you’re doing right now,” Furner said. “As you know, last week we canceled our customer conference meeting. We thought that was the right decision at the time and I’m 100% sure this week that was absolutely the right decision because of what has happened this week with the runup in business, it has been great to have you in your stores and your communities.
“When I think about the role of Walmart in communities it’s a really important role. We serve millions of people each and every day. We’ve got to be ready for our customers to be served in any way they want to be served.”
Walgreens has also taken precautions. Even though the store is expecting some shortages, staff still working with suppliers and transporters to get stores restocked. In an effort to mitigate shortages, limits have been placed on certain items, said Walgreen’s media relations manager Phil Caruso.
“We’re continuing to see greater demand for a number of products across our stores nationwide, which may cause temporary shortages,” Caruso said. “We are restocking those stores as quickly as possible and continuing to work diligently with our supplier partners to best meet customer demands.
“We have put into effect purchase limits on certain products to help improve inventory and to help ensure products can be more widely available. At this time, we’re limiting the purchase of disinfectant wipes and cleaners, face masks, hand sanitizers, thermometers, gloves and paper goods to four per product category, per customer.”
Walmart and Albertsons have both reduced hours, implemented special times for seniors to shop, and restricted purchases of items in high demand.
Smaller local stores are also dealing with the effects that coronavirus spread has had on communities.
Down Home Discount, located next to Rimrock Tire in Cody, has been trying to keep up with customers’ needs the past few days, having to refill bare shelves within minutes.
“It has been unbelievable,” Thomas said. “We’ll do our best to keep products on our shelf, but we don’t know how we can keep this up for a few months.”
The main items bought in bulk at Down Home Discount are bread, flour, dry goods, canned goods, juice and a lot of other staples.
The surge of shoppers, along with out-of-school children, has caused other concerns.
“Kids are at home since they canceled school, and it was because they wanted to prevent them from becoming carriers,” Thomas said. “And now we’re seeing people bringing their kids in the store with them, and they’re coughing or sneezing and touching everything, and it takes away the whole point of why school was canceled in the first place. We have to be healthy in order to be here at the stores.
“Right now, the effort we have to put out is 10 times more than on a normal day. The only thing we, those still working with the public, request is that you leave the kids at home if you’re going out to pick things up. If you can’t do that, you can call us and request a delivery, and I or someone will bring it to you at the end of the day, if that is what it will take to keep everyone healthy.”