Grocery stores in snow storms: boom, bust, or break-even? - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Grocery stores in snow storms: boom, bust, or break-even?


When it snows, customers can be seen cleaning out grocery store shelves of milk and bread. You might think snow means a business boom for grocery stores, but snow storms can actually cool off those profits.

When meteorologists say snow will hit the ground, people hit the grocery stores, buying staples like milk and bread like they're about to starve.

"Business just booms before the snow storm hits. There's no question about that," said Donnie Caffrey, owner of Good Foods Grocery.

But costs can take the bang out of that boom. Before the storm, stores often have to pay extra staff hours to load up the shelves.

"They start to pre-load us with the milk and things like that," explained Martin's Regional Vice-President Jim Scanlon.

If the power goes out, stores have to scramble, making sure doors are closed on freezers and refrigerators, and pulling plastic covers over open coolers, to keep the cold air in. That's because back-up generators usually power the lights, not the refrigerators.

"We push everything back that's refrigerated," said Scanlon. "If we think it's going to be an extended period of time, we typically have dry ice on hand."

Dry ice, extra labor, the costs add up.

"You have refrigerated trailers on site. That's an additional diesel cost," added Scanlon.

If dairy products or meats get too warm, they have to be tossed.

"You have to go throw it in the dumpster. You have to record it for your insurance purposes. It's a mess, an absolute mess," said Caffrey.

Surprisingly, they say delivery trucks usually make it if the roads are passable.

"We may have late deliveries, but typically we do not have no deliveries," said Scanlon.

Scanlon says Martin's stores stay open during storms, but smaller stores may close. That's a lost day. It takes another day or two for customers to come back when the roads are clear.

"If snow hits on a Wednesday, you're pretty much down on Thursday, Friday and Saturday," said Caffrey.

The bottom line? They say the boom minus the costs makes it a wash.

"You had a lot of business up front. You lost some, came back slower. It ends up being a fairly normal week, thank goodness," said Caffrey.

Then they get ready for the next storm.

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