Local Grocer Working To Make Sure Inventory Is On Hand

Cleaning supplies, other items priority

The president of a local grocery store chain says while the demand is high, his company is working hard to make sure customers will have what they need when they go to the store.

Mack McLamb told The Daily Record Monday morning the COVID-19 virus has put a strain on the retail supply chain. He said it’s a strain that can and will be overcome.

The rush to buy cleaning supplies and toilet paper has forced shoppers to hunt for the commodities. Jessica Barnes of Godwin was one of the shoppers in the Carlie C’s IGA on Cumberland Street in Dunn Monday. She grabbed several rolls of paper towels that sit adjacent to empty shelves where the toilet paper normally sits.

“When you’re talking about cleaning products such as disinfectant wipes and stuff like that, we knew the supply is going to be spotty for the next several days,” McLamb said. “We will get some, but it will be limited. It’s on allocation as to when you get it. So, we probably will end up having limits on it when we do get it.”

While cleaning supplies are flying off shelves as quick as it can be stocked in almost every store, McLamb said Carlie C’s IGA stores are doing better on toilet paper. He said there have been shortages, but the stores continue getting shipments.

“We’ve been pretty good on paper for the most part,” he said. “We’ve been out at times, but we have had paper most of the time. We got more deliveries last night (Sunday) and we’re supposed to get a delivery today. So, I feel pretty good about the paper.”

McLamb said shoppers are still safe when it comes to staple foods such as canned meats and other canned goods. He said the supply has been replenished, but there could always be a rush to buy, especially when people overstock in a panic.

He said there will always be shoppers who go to the store with the intention of stocking large supplies in case they are unable to leave their homes. He said because of the changes in the way grocery stores and other retail businesses are supplied, it’s not as easy for stores to compensate for runs on their inventory which are unexpected, leading oftentimes to shortages.

“The grocery business, the supermarket business, the manufacturing business is much different today than it was 20 years ago,” McLamb said. “Back 20 years ago they’d make a lot of product, they’d put it in a warehouse and they’d draw from it for weeks.”

Now he says the industry has gone to a system of delivery when it gets closer to “just in time,” meaning stores have lost the pipeline of constant inventory being available.

“We will catch up and fill the pipeline,” he said. “But right now they’re buying several weeks worth of goods, but there’s not that much inventory in the pipeline to fill it.”

When it comes to the sudden rush to purchase as much toilet paper as is possible, McLamb says while it may seem out of the ordinary, the customers’ worries are founded in a hidden logic.

He said no one will normally increase the amount of toilet paper they use, but they fear they won’t be able to leave their houses and will be left with less than they need.

Cleaning supplies are in huge demand because of the recent pandemic of the coronavirus. The shelves at Carlie C’s were only partially full with the needed items.

“Right now the fear is they’ll run out,” he said. “I think the fear is they’ll be quarantined for some time where they can’t go out. We’ve also got customers buying it for their neighbor who can’t get out. So they’re buying it for other people.”

McLamb said it is, after all, a product with no expiration date or no sell-by date. It is a nonperishable and can always be used, regardless of whether there is a national emergency or not.

“It doesn’t go bad,” he said. “It’s nonperishable, we will eventually use it, we won’t throw it away.”

McLamb said his main focus is on the health and well-being of the customers and the community and the staff who work for the stores.

He said staff are cleaning and disinfecting on a regular basis. He said each hour they are using disinfectant on hard surfaces and providing gloves to staff to use on a voluntary basis.

“Right now we’re having our staff to wear gloves to help protect them, we’ve not made it mandatory, but we probably will in the future,” he said. “I think if this grows, we will probably have more and more things we will end up doing to help that. We’re trying to keep our contact to a minimum.”

McLamb said he’s not seen an increase in the numbers of customers. Instead he’s seeing an increase in what they actually do buy. Which is sparked by a likely increase in the number of meals prepared at home compared to the number of visits to restaurants and other food establishments.

The stores are not changing their store hours yet to accommodate stocking of shelves and to allow for sanitation. McLamb said he’s considering it and may do it in the future.

McLamb also is recommending shoppers take advantage of the pickup and delivery services Carlie C’s has initiated. He said the delivery service will help prevent close contact, something all health officials are advising.

To utilize the service, residents should go online to the Carlie C’s website or the stores app. They can order what they need and it will be ready at a specified time for either delivery or pickup.

McLamb is urging older residents who are in the more vulnerable category to take advantage of the delivery service.

“I would especially encourage those customers in the community that are over 60 years of age to have their stuff delivered to them,” he said. “They seem to be the most vulnerable in the community and we’re glad to offer the service.”

-Dunn Daily Record