Stores struggle to keep shelves stocked during threat of COVID-19 pandemic


If you’ve been to the store in the last few days, you may have come home empty-handed.

In fear of closures and quarantines over the threat of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, many people are running to the stores and buying items in bulk.

Grocers and retailers are finding it difficult to keep some items like toilet paper, paper towels, wipes, hand sanitizer and disinfectants, milk, bread, produce, meat, canned goods and frozen food on the shelves.

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Walmart, JayC Food Stores and Aldi are limiting the number of some in-demand items to four or fewer per shopper.

“We believe that everyone deserves to have access to fresh, affordable food and essentials, especially in times of uncertainty,” said Rodney McMullen, chairman and CEO of The Kroger Co., which owns JayC. “That’s why our teams are working so hard to keep our stores clean, open and stocked.”

Kroger activated a preparedness plan in all of its stores including JayC several weeks ago and continues to monitor the situation.

“We’re following guidance from federal, state and local agencies, including the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and other health organizations,” he said.

Stores also are changing their hours with Walmart announcing Saturday it would begin closing its 24-hour stores, including the one in Seymour, from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily.

“This will help ensure associates are able to stock the products our customers are looking for and to perform cleaning and sanitizing,” said Dacona Smith, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Walmart.

“As we make this change, associates will continue to work the hours and shifts they are scheduled, and our supply chain and trucking fleet will continue to move products and deliver to stores on their regular schedules,” Smith said

Both JayC stores in Seymour and the one in Brownstown are closing an hour earlier. Those stores will be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The closures also are a way to lessen the amount of exposure people have to each other.

“We strive to make decisions that balance the safety of our associates with our commitments to our customers and communities,” McMullen said.

In another effort to protect the most vulnerable populations, Dollar General Stores are opening to serve senior citizens first.

“We are dedicating the first hour of each day to seniors,” said Todd Vasos, Dollar General’s chief executive officer. “Other customers are encouraged to plan their shopping trips around this window of time to allow the most susceptible customers in our communities the ability to shop during the first hour that stores are open.

Dollar General stores also are closing one hour earlier to give associates more time to stock and sanitize.

“During these unprecedented times, Dollar General is diligently working to meet the ongoing needs of our customers and communities,” Vasos said.

Michelle Hallett of Seymour said her biggest concern is for people like herself who receive disability benefits and are only paid once a month.

“I won’t get paid again for over two more weeks so I’m wondering if I’ll be able to get my monthly items including food at that time,” she said. “I keep my faith that God will provide.”

Sandy Foster of Seymour wishes the limits would have started sooner, but she thinks there are ways businesses can survive and even thrive.

“This could be an awesome opportunity to bring delivery and pickup options to Seymour and enhance what we have,” she said.

Vera Reichenbacker of Seymour said she hopes the stores can restock needed items quickly.

“I never got a chance to grab any toilet paper last week. I’m getting down to the last few rolls, so I’m hoping everyone will be about done with their hoarding in the next few days,” she said.

But she has even more serious things to worry about than toilet paper.

“I’m really worried about all the jobs and how are people going to manage with things getting shut down and kids having to stay home?” she asked. “I just feel like this is all like a movie. I never thought we’d ever be in a situation like this. It’s unreal.”

Tim Mace of Seymour said the limiting of items is needed before the country has to take even more drastic measures.

“They need to do this before we have to be issued ration books,” he said.

Mace said there may not be a lot people can control right now, but they can control their actions.

“I think some of what was bought makes no sense,” he said. “Why buy tons of bottled water when you can go to your tap and spend much less money?”

Nancy Franke of Seymour said supplies will be replenished, but it’s a good time for people to reflect on what really matters.

“For too long, we have lived in the moment of expecting immediate gratification and thinking every person needs to look out for themselves above all others,” she said. “I see an opportunity for all of us to step back, slow down and take time away from the hurried world we have become and get back to what is really important.”

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