Barren Shelves Before the Storms
Binge buying before an upcoming storm about to hit northern Nevada has some supermarket employees feeling a little deja vu from early 2020 and the pandemic days of near hoarding.
Over the 5th and 6th of this month, Whole Foods Market in Reno experienced significantly higher volumes of customers and almost $10,000 more in sales each day. By the end of the night, customers were searching for items in the produce department that were scarce before closing: berries, broccoli, and other healthy foods.
This brought back memories of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when there were near riots to grab toilet paper. Ever since then, it seems local supermarkets have struggled to be fully stocked up.
“You know what? Things definitely changed during the pandemic,” says the produce department’s assistant Team Leader Carlos Vicente at the Whole Foods on Virginia St. when asked about these peculiar buying patterns. “They were almost hoarding.” After a pause, he admits: “I think it’s been normalized a little bit, but comparing this to the pandemic was night and day. Either way, they buy a lot more now.”
When asked if this had anything to do with what became normal during the pandemic, Vicente explained that what he saw mostly over this weekend was impulse buying rather than the hoarding he noticed a couple years ago. “Especially in Whole Foods where you don’t see things that you typically see at [other grocery stores], they’re definitely going to impulse buy those unique items.”
“This weekend, we’ve been selling out of a solid half of our things before 3 p.m.,” said another team member, Anthony Ascencio-Beltran. “Customers have also been coming in earlier, lining up at the door before we even open at 8 a.m.” For context, he then clarifies that the department usually does not experience these types of shortages until closer to closing time at 9 p.m.
“It’s pretty smart of them,” Ascencio-Beltran muses when asked if this is impulse buying. “It’s supposed to snow on Tuesday. We’re probably not going to get [any product] at all because if it snows too heavily, the truck will not make it over the pass from [our distribution center located in Richmond, CA]. It’s a five hour drive from here.”
Either way, the pattern of stocking up when things look bleak seems to be a normal occurrence for Whole Foods, and many other local stores. Despite inflated prices, there still seems to be lots of buying power among some members of of our community.