As most people have noticed, shelves at area grocery stores and big-box retailers are empty of certain items, most noticeably toilet paper, hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes.
Following is what three area grocers have noticed. All compared recent sales to a Fourth of July holiday, which is the busiest time of year for grocers.
Walking into Pequot Lakes Supervalu on Sunday and Monday morning, March 15-16, shoppers were met with near-empty produce sections - apples, potatoes and onions were in short or nonexistent supply.
“Warehouses can’t get trucks loaded fast enough to replenish stores,” Corky Ledoux, manager of Pequot Lakes Supervalu, said Monday morning, noting he expected trucks to arrive Monday or Tuesday.
Ledoux spent the previous week in Texas and noticed depleted stores there.
“I was at a store in Texas - it looked like the Fourth of July in there. It was just massive people,” he said.
Ledoux said Supervalu was out of such items as eggs, fruits and vegetables, as well as toilet paper, hand sanitizer and wipes. He also said people were buying a lot of soups and canned goods.
Trucks bringing grocery items were running around 24 hours behind, he said.
“We’re just not getting our trucks fast enough,” Ledoux said.
At Cub Foods in Brainerd and Baxter, those two store locations reduced hours to 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. - rather than being open 24 hours as usual - so the stores can restock and clean thoroughly.
In Pine River, the Family Market has experienced a surge in business that seems, in part, driven by COVID-19 concerns.
"It's been very, very busy," said Chuck Welte, of Pine River Family Market. "Almost like the weekend of Fourth of July type of busy by last Wednesday. Basically all our sales are double what they normally are this time of year."
Welte said his Sunday regulars were particularly surprised, as they shop on Sunday specifically to avoid crowds. That didn't work this week. Many of those coming to the store are from outside the area.
"I was seeing people from Brainerd and Little Falls coming here because we still had plenty of products," Welte said. "We have a nice warehouse in the back of the store here where we can keep a lot of extra things like toilet paper, which seems to be a very hot item."
The store did temporarily run out of some items, including eggs, but the store receives shipments of some variety almost every day, meaning the staff is working quickly to fill empty spots almost as fast as the items sell.
"Everything in the store is well stocked. We get deliveries every day of the week. It depends on what it is, but major deliveries for groceries are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and produce comes Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday," Welte said. "And there aren't any disruptions to the supply chains, so I think everything that people are going to need or feel like they need, we'll have it."
The store still has a selection of toilet paper, though Welte said they are short on some brands or varieties. His supplier did have a delay in restocking the store; however, they are already anticipating another shipment before they run out of their current stock.
Welte was somewhat surprised at how many customers bought evaporated milk or dried milk and similar products.
Teddy Schaefer, of Schaefer’s Foods in Nisswa, said his store received 3,000 pieces of stock for the shelves Tuesday, March 17.
“That’s bigger than what we get on the third of July,” he said.
While the store was out of toilet paper and hand sanitizer, it did restock toilet paper. Unfortunately, suppliers are out of hand sanitizer, Schaefer said.
The store is also grinding fresh ground beef and selling that like it does on the Fourth of July, he said.
So far, supplies are strong, Schaefer said, though stores may not be allocated as much of an item as desired.
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