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Daily Journal
     March 17, 2020      #53-77 KDJ
 

'It's like a blizzard on steroids:' Run on

By Lee Provost
lprovost@daily-journal.com


The meat departments of many grocery stores have been chewed to the bone as shoppers — fearing a food shortage — continue to empty stores’ refrigerated sections.

They’re sections which only a week or two ago had an abundance of ground chuck, hamburger, steak, stew meat and pork chops. Now, at many grocery stores, they are empty.

Shoppers are placing these selections in carts almost as fast as trucks can get the items to their destination.

While officials say the food supply chain has not been interrupted by efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus and that there is not a national or regional food shortage, many consumers believe it may happen — so they continue to buy in bulk.

“It’s been an adventure,” one store manager, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, explained to the Daily Journal on Monday. “It’s like a blizzard on steroids. I’ve seen some of the same people over and over.”

When a significant snowfall is in the forecast, one of the first reactions many have is to go the grocery store and stock up.

That situation normally runs its course in a 24-hour period. The stockpiling brought on by fears of the coronavirus, however, has been taking place for many days now.

Brian Jordan, president of the Illinois Food Retailers’ Association in Lombard, said Monday that consumers need to return to their normal shopping patterns.

There is no need, he said, to stock up.

“When they are shopping like this, it puts a strain on the entire system. People are hoarding not only non-perishables, but perishables as well,” he said.

Jordan said Gov. J.B. Pritzker has relaxed rules regarding truck hauling weights and driver road hours to keep product moving. But, he said, that won’t solve the problem if consumers don’t slow down.

“This ultimately goes back to consumers,” he said.

Like almost everyone, Jordan said he cannot predict when consumers will calm down.

“People need to use their best judgment,” he said. “Panic brings horrible results. While some are stocking their shelves, others may be left out in the cold. That doesn’t help us.”

Retailers noted the panic actually began two weeks or so ago when customers began seeing dwindling supplies of hand sanitizers and wipes. That situation set off a wave of panic-buying on numerous other products, the New York Times reported.

Kroger, one of the nation’s top grocery retailers, which has a location in Bourbonnais, has reported product demand has increased by 30 percent. In all of 2019, Kroger’s product demand grew by 2 percent.

Toilet paper, milk, bottled water and meats have been so sought after that some locations have placed limits on how much a shopper can take home.

While the pandemic has been a boon to groceries, it has not played out that way for many other businesses.

“There is no doubt business has been spectacular,” the local grocer said, “but this is not the way I like to get business.”

He noted many customers at his store are taking only what they need, although there are some shoppers who aren’t as understanding.

“I would say for the most part, people have been positive, not fighting, not pushing or shoving. I bet there hasn’t been anything like this other than World War II,” the manager said.

In Bourbonnais, where grocery hoarding has also been a concern, Mayor Paul Schore discussed the issue at Monday’s village board meeting.

He reported that he and Village Administrator Mike Van Mill had visited managers at Jewel/Osco and Kroger.

“They said they are doing OK but they have been hot like they are during the holidays,” Schore told board members. “People are going overboard with buying stuff. Be realistic. We’re all in this together.

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Lee Provost
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