After struggling to restock shelves depleted by consumers preparing for the storm, local grocery stores reported operating with only minor supply issues today.
“For these events, it’s really that period of 48 to 72 hours before the weather hits that we’re the busiest, and that is what we gear up for,” said Jo Natale, a spokeswoman for Wegmans. “The only people in stores today are there because there is something they absolutely cannot do without, such as baby formula or medications.”
Foot traffic dropped dramatically as consumers stayed indoors out of the cold. That gave stores a chance to replenish shelves and give aisles a thorough cleaning after Monday’s chaos.
Stores worked with skeleton crews, since many workers were unable to report to work. Driving conditions and driving bans kept some employees off roads and away from stores, while other workers were required to stay home with children whose schools were closed for the day.
Delivery trucks continued reaching stores today, though much more slowly than usual. Trucks were sent along alternate routes to avoid Thruway closures, while stores communicated with local municipalities to let them know when delivery trucks would be traveling through towns with driving bans. Food delivery is considered an essential service, so those trucks are typically allowed through.
Inbound shipments, especially those coming from vendors in the Midwest, have been delayed, making it difficult for Wegmans and Tops stores to get some things such as fresh produce.
“We’ll probably see them arriving en masse Wednesday,” said John Persons, Tops senior vice president of operations.
The bulk of store inventory, which comes from local distribution centers, is well stocked.
Tops has a nearly 1-million-square-foot distribution center in Lancaster, while Wegmans has eight distribution centers in Rochester that service its stores in New York State. Multiple trucks are continuing to make daily stops at stores.
Both Tops and Wegmans have teams of people that watch weather forecasts and road conditions closely, then work to alert the rest of the store’s supply chain.
Each year as winter approaches, stores are stocked with extra winter-weather supplies such as windshield washer fluid, rock salt, snow shovels, mittens and hats. As storms brew, stores clear out in-store storage space to make room specifically for staples such as bread and milk. Stores order additional deliveries of those staples to keep up with the ongoing demand.
Grocers said the storm’s timing actually worked to their benefit, because its busiest days fell on days that are already stores’ busiest– beginning on Friday and lasting through the weekend.
“The stores are already prepared to receive shipments and our trucks are already headed for the stores, we just add a lot more cases of product in the orders,” Cullen said.
But just because things are quiet now, doesn’t mean stores can relax. They’re restocking in preparation of the next round of post-storm shopping.
“Inevitably, when the temperature goes up over the next few days and people are finally digging out, you’ll see another surge in shopping and we want to be prepared for that,” Persons said.