Blizzards A Boon to Retailers

Supermarkets along the East Coast last week braved a pair of heavy snowstorms and their associated shopping sprees. Dubbed the storms contributed to record-breaking annual snowfall totals here and in places like Maryland, Delaware and parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. They brought strain to supermarkets, but also plenty of business, particularly among shoppers who stocked up ahead of

WASHINGTON — Supermarkets along the East Coast last week braved a pair of heavy snowstorms — and their associated shopping sprees.

Dubbed “Snowmageddon,” the storms contributed to record-breaking annual snowfall totals here and in places like Maryland, Delaware and parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. They brought strain to supermarkets, but also plenty of business, particularly among shoppers who stocked up ahead of the first storm Feb. 5, then experienced lengthy power outages before a second helping of snow five days later.

“Fortunately, we had a window of opportunity to get trucks out to our stores and restock after the first storm, and we've been fortunate to be able to keep our stores open through both storms,” Jamie Miller, a spokesman for Ahold's Giant-Landover chain, told SN last week. “Our people throughout the supply chain have done an incredible job, from people in distribution to the truck drivers to associates in the stores. They really responded incredibly during a very difficult time.”

Miller said lines were long and parking lots were full as shoppers stocked up at Giant stores prior to the Feb. 5 event, which dumped more than 20 inches of snow around Greater Washington. The retailer increased shifts for delivery drivers to meet the demand and provide shipments around-the-clock as stores prepared, he said.

Retailers reported heavy demand for staple food items like bread, milk and eggs as well as batteries, snow shovels and ice melt. Traffic was especially heavy ahead of the weather and light once the snow began falling. Jo Natale, a spokeswoman for Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans Food Markets, said the storms affected its stores from Harrisburg, Pa., east to New Jersey and south to Virginia. Many closed early during the Feb. 10 event.

“We closed many of those stores by 5 p.m., either because we couldn't staff the stores because employees couldn't get there, and/or because there were very few customers by that point,” Natale said.

“All in all, though, we weathered the situation very well. We were able to supply the stores and stay open most of the time. Stores were extremely busy in the days and hours leading up to both storms but very quiet once they hit.”

Ahold's Giant-Carlisle division also had stores hit hard by the storm in the Harrisburg, Hagerstown, Md., and Philadelphia markets, with some closing at 5 p.m. Feb. 10, spokeswoman Tracy Pawelski said. Those stores reopened the following morning.

While the storm provided a hard hit for many businesses — clothing and speciality retailers in particular — food stores that were prepared for the storm may see a considerable uptick in overall sales as a result.

“Particularly in this market, any time there is a forecast for snow, our business generally does pretty well,” Miller of Giant acknowledged. “This time, it put a lot of stress on the business, but it's always good to see a lot of customers in the store.”