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Gulf Retailers Weather Isaac

BATON ROUGE, La. — Associated Grocers of Louisiana here said it still had about 15 to 20 stores without power on Friday, but it expected to return to a full normal schedule of deliveries over the weekend following Hurricane Isaac.

“It could have been a heck of a lot worse,” Jay Campbell, president and chief executive officer of the wholesaler, told SN. “It was not that severe a storm, but it lingered so long, it did trigger a lot of flooding.”

He said the company’s distribution center here was shut down temporarily at the peak of the storm for the safety of employees, but did not lose power.

“We closed for one full day, had a planning meeting and made sure we were ready to hit the ground running the very next day,” Campbell told SN on Friday. “We expect to be back on a full regular schedule with everybody within 48 hours.”

He said the company has increased its preparedness and improved its communications with stores — including new technology that triggered delivery orders based on demand — since Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the region in 2005.

“Things have gone quite smoothly,” Campbell said. “Since this is not our first rodeo, we have some experience with it. Our teams have done really well. Communcations with the stores have been open, and we knew what needed to be done.”

The wholesaler was seeking to keep stores stocked not only with bottled water, batteries, canned foods and sandwich supplies, but was also seeking to replenish the perishables inventories of stores that had lost power and came back online.

Meanwhile Jacksonville, Fla.-Based Winn-Dixie said all of its stores in Biloxi-Gulfport, Miss.; Montgomery, Ala.; and New Orleans were open as of Thursday afternoon after many had closed early on Wednesday.

New Orleans-based Rouses Markets said it was selling ice directly out of trucks at some locations Friday, and was delivering truckloads of bottled water to stores in areas that were under boil-water advisories. All its stores had reopened by Thursday, and were operating at normal hours Friday, although its midtown New Orleans store was closed temporarily Friday to repair a cash register system malfunction, the company said on Twitter.

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