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Supermarkets working to meet customer demand

Empty grocery store shelves
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

Grocery stores in Michigan are working to keep shelves stocked during the coronavirus/COVID-19 event. Cleaning supplies as well as routine items such as toilet paper are in high demand.

Reports indicate sales are up dramatically at supermarkets. A spokesman for Busch’s Fresh Foods indicated sales had increased by two to three times.

“This would be even busier right now than what we normally see right around Christmas or Thanksgiving time. So it's it's extremely busy,” said Todd Robinson, Director of Marketing for Busch’s.

Busch’s is also seeing high demand for prepared food from its delis. “I think people are kind of planning to hunker down for a while and not planning to go out to restaurants quite so much,” Robinson speculated.

Keeping the store shelves stocked is a challenge. In some cases, people who work in management are now at the stores to help. Busch’s CEO was unloading trucks at a store on Friday.

Supermarket chains have increased orders, but won’t know how much more stock they’ll get until the trucks arrive. Many chains are waiting on hand sanitizers and toilet paper. It’s expected those shortages will disappear in another couple of days.

Distribution centers such as Wal-Mart’s are working to divert high-demand items to regions where they are most needed.

In some cases, stores are limiting the quantities of certain items such as Clorox wipes and toilet paper to deter hoarding by customers and make the products available to more people.

One of the other priorities listed by supermarket chains is sanitizing shopping carts. While many stores already provided wipes for customers, some retailers, such as Wal-Mart, are now considering hiring third-party contractors to wipe down carts to ensure they’re thoroughly cleaned.

Additional cleaning supplies are being placed at high traffic areas such as cashier lines at most stores.

In a note to customers, Meijer indicated it was "redoubling our effort to proactively sanitize our stores more frequently throughout the day, especially at our check lanes, self-checkouts and service areas."

The stores contacted added they were all following the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and of local health officials.

Attorney General Dana Nessel is warning residents to beware “of businesses engaging in potential price-gouging, and to report those suspected offenses to her office immediately.” A press release noted the office “is aware of businesses selling face masks, hand sanitizers and cleaning supplies at exceptionally high prices – likely in violation of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act.”

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Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Radio from 1998-2010.
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