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Tuesday, September 02, 2014
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Published: Thursday, 1/9/2014 - Updated: 7 months ago

Stores reporting some shortages in supplies, but cash flow just fine

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Rick Garner restocks eggs at Walt Churchill's Market in Perrysburg on. Retailers, whose deliveries of food and produce were disrupted by bad weather and travel bans, scramble to restock. Rick Garner restocks eggs at Walt Churchill's Market in Perrysburg on. Retailers, whose deliveries of food and produce were disrupted by bad weather and travel bans, scramble to restock.
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The end of an area-wide Level 3 snow emergency found some local merchants shorthanded and scrambling on Wednesday to resupply their wares as consumers emerged from days of snow and brutal cold.

“We’re just restocking everything as we would with a normal replenishment,” said John Hoover, director of marketing for The Andersons. “Some of the distributors’ scheduled visits to the store on Monday and Tuesday were pushed back until [Wednesday]. But we’re making good progress, and we’ll be ready for business and fully stocked again by the end of the day.”

The heaviest demand by consumers on Monday and Tuesday — days when the Level 3 emergency required that nonessential vehicles stay off the roads — was for food and fuel.

And with many consumers furiously stocking up on Saturday and Sunday, some grocers ran low or ran out of some items, while reports indicated that some gas stations in the Perrysburg area ran out of fuel temporarily.

The Kroger Co., which has 21 metro Toledo stores, honored the Level 3 protocol and refrained from sending trucks to resupply its stores until the travel ban was lifted late Tuesday.

“We want to get the product in the stores, but then you worry about the safety of our drivers and the possibility of trucks getting stuck or blocking emergency vehicles,” Kroger spokesman Jackie Siekmann said.

The supermarket chain began sending truckloads of groceries to Toledo-area stores early Wednesday, but Ms. Siekmann said refilling its stores completely will take some time.

“One of the biggest issues we’re going to have now is an egg shortage. Midwest Poultry [of Mentone, Ind.] shut down production, and that is where we get our eggs,” the spokesman said. “And then when you compound that with the Level 3 emergencies that we had in many places, trying to replenish the stock in our stores, well, it was tough.”

Ms. Siekman said many stores ran out of staples or certain high-demand items, such as bananas. Store shelves were low on bread, eggs, milk, and toilet paper, she said.

Area Meijer stores’s experiences were similar.

Frank Guglielmi, a Meijer spokesman, said milk, bread, and produce were in high demand, and several stores ran low. But the retailer has major distribution complexes in Lansing and Newport, Mich., just north of Monroe, and was able to replenish supplies quickly on Wednesday.

“As of [Wednesday], most of our stores are just about back to normal,” he said.

Big retail chains such as Kroger and Meijer, which depend on a lengthy supply chain, were plagued by low inventories as customers rushed to stock up over the weekend in anticipation of the snowstorm and cold weather.

“Saturday was an extremely busy day” at Meijer stores, Mr. Guglielmi said.

Ms. Siekmann said that economically, Kroger wasn’t concerned by the loss of business on Monday and Tuesday when most consumers stayed home because it too experienced high sales over the weekend, and expected to do strong business on Wednesday and this weekend.

Mr. Hoover of The Andersons said business at its three area stores over the weekend was triple what it normally is this time of year.

“As the storm moved in, our early morning business on Sunday was very good, and as the storm proceeded to bring snow in, it started to slow down,” he said. “We shut down on Monday and Tuesday — we thought it appropriate to honor the Level 3 emergency and look after our employees and customers.

“But, all in all, it was about a wash financially when you roll those four days in together,” he said.

Smaller grocers appeared to have fared better.

Walt Churchill’s Market in Perrysburg, for example, had a few problems with some deliveries and ran low on some items, store manager Darlene Carmona said.

But a major supplier unexpectedly delivered a shipment on Monday that carried the store through, she said.

“Anyone who came in on Monday and Tuesday, they pretty much got whatever they needed,” she said.

“[Tuesday] was busier than I thought, but people were very grateful that we were open,” Ms. Carmona said. “People did get their bread, which is a benefit of us having our own scratch bakery, and then we got the delivery Monday, so we did not run out of milk, although we did run out of certain specific brands.”

Churchill’s got more deliveries on Wednesday and spent the afternoon restocking its shelves.

Customers of Sautter’s Five-Star Market in Sylvania also found well-stocked shelves, store manager Don Randazzo said.

“We were able to resupply pretty quickly because we got a delivery on Monday. Our warehouse really came through for us. We were surprised,” Mr. Randazzo said. “We stayed open and never ran out of anything,” he said.

“Our produce supplier was able to deliver as well, and we got an extra dairy delivery on Saturday. We did as much as we could to prepare,” he said.

Gasoline was in high demand over the weekend, but with road travel restricted, demand was minimal on Monday and Tuesday.

For nongrocery and gasoline retailers, Wednesday was spent bringing employees back after two days off and greeting customers who had been cooped up in their homes.

For example, Yark Automotive Group reopened and was ready early for customers who now might have their eyes on an all-wheel-drive vehicle after two days of inactivity.

“We are anticipating that there will be a little pent-up demand now that things are getting back to business as usual in all areas of the dealership,” said Doug Kearns, Yark group general manager.

At the Appliance Center in Maumee, manager Jim Grzywinski said the retailer had to postpone deliveries of appliances and big-screen TVs because of the store’s closure on Monday and Tuesday. “We hope to start deliveries up [today],” he said.

Although closing the store meant no business for two days, Mr. Grzywinski said the retailer didn’t miss out on any sales.

“We weren’t open, but neither was anybody else. So it was all a level playing field,” he said.

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.



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