coronavirus in connecticut

Retailers Ready as Busy Grocery Season Nears

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Looking back at empty store shelves from March is a haunting memory heading into Halloween weekend.

“Very, very early, I want to say it was about seven months ago, I went to the store and couldn’t find diapers for my daughter,” said John H. Anderson III from Wallingford.

It was a frustrating time at the start of the pandemic for Anderson, who said he made trips to seven different stores.

“You want to talk about a way to lessen exposure, why not have people know what’s in the store before they even walk in the door?” said Anderson.

So, he created a coronavirus essentials group on Facebook, where a community of 7,000 people statewide are helping each other find the hard to find stuff.

“One little idea spread into this amazing thing to help so many people,” said Anderson. He said the group has strict guidelines regarding only posting photos and locations of products – no people. And hoarding is not allowed.

He said even small businesses, daycare and restaurant owners source products in the group.

For small restaurants, the increase in to-go orders means there’s an increased demand.

“The more paper goods that are going to be needed, harder to find napkins, harder to find plates, harder to find all of those items that are for to-go,” said Anderson.

Larger retailers and grocery stores have been able to catch up in the last few months. Stores are now able to meet about 95% of demand, according to Wayne Pesce, president of the Connecticut Food Association.

“The good news for us is we’ve got some experience from late March and April,” said Pesce.

Quantity limits were helpful in keeping items stocked through the summer and fall. Stores will most likely put those restrictions back in place if they start to see another surge.

“It’s not an emergency at this point but it’s something we’re looking at,” said Pesce.

Grocery stores are prepared for the standard holiday season rush, despite the recommendation for smaller gatherings. Pesce said the same amount of people will need to shop and eat; they’ll just do it separately.

The one unknown factor is if people will begin pandemic stockpiling during the holiday season, that could impact supplies. But some experts say they don’t expect to see it this fall.

“For better or worse, we kind of know how it goes, we know what a lockdown looks like, so I doubt there’s going to be the same kind of panic,” said Nathan Novemsky, a professor of marketing and psychology at Yale University.  

He said the rush earlier this year was because people were fearful of what shutdowns mean. Now, Novemsky said we’re all experienced in the pandemic and many people may already have the food and supplies they already need.

And if it’s hard to find, chances are groups like Anderson’s could hold the answers.

“The members are what makes the page, and what makes it amazing," said Anderson.

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