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Food City CEO: No food shortages; please stop hoarding

Food City supermarkets will not be limiting the number of customers allowed in their stores, for now, and will remain open seven days a week, the chain’s chairman and CEO, Steve Smith, said during an online news conference on Tuesday.

“We don’t have plans to limit shoppers right now,” he said. “We are convinced that our customers understand their responsibilities when they come into our stores.”

He said many stores have recently been remodeled, making them larger and more open, which “helps keep customers separated.”

The Abingdon, Virginia-based supermarket chain also has seen an uptick in shipments of goods to its warehouses, which is helping to restock stores that have been ravaged by customers hoarding products.

Smith said the stores are “making headway” on restocking. “People are going to start to see it,” he added, but said it could take up to a month to have most items readily available.

“The supply chain in the U.S. has been severely tested these past four weeks,” he said.

For the safety of shoppers and associates, the stores also now have employees assigned at all times to keep shopping carts clean and sanitized for customers entering the store, Smith said,

“Customers will see dedicated associates sanitizing handles on the carts,” he said. “We sanitize them completely before we open, and throughout the day. Plexiglass keeps us separated from our customers to help keep our associates and our customers safe.”

Smith also sought to allay consumer fears of a food shortage.

“The U.S. is not going to run out of food,” he said. “Our stores are going to remain open, and they will have groceries on hand.”

Consumers also should not worry about getting the coronavirus from food bought from the store, Smith said. “There is no evidence of food or food packaging transmitting this virus.”

Smith also noted, “Some items are temporarily not available from the manufacturers. We will let our customers know about those. But we are getting most of the products we need to carry.

“Manufacturers are shipping more product, but it’s still not enough,” Smith said. “Panic buying has slowed down in some places but not in others. Sanitizers and disinfectants will continue to be in short supply, as well as bleach,” so customers will continue to be limited in their buying of those items.

“Paper products will be allocated,” he said. “We are still getting these items in,” but not enough to satisfy the unprecedented consumer demand. Please don’t hoard; just shop for your weekly needs.”

While the store is not running specials this week, “The week after Easter we will be back in the newspapers with our ads,” Smith said.

In the meantime, prices on some items, including eggs and ground beef, have gone up because the demand is outpacing the supply, and the suppliers are charging more, he said. “We have had to pass some of those costs along to our customers.”

“The hens can only lay so many eggs,” he said, again imploring consumers to stop hoarding and refrain from buying more than they actually need.

To give employees some time off with their families, Food City stores will be open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Easter, Smith said. Otherwise, the stores are open daily until 10 p.m.