Chippewa Valley grocery pickup services are booming | Covid-19
With supermarkets being some of the busiest places in this era of social distancing, many customers have turned to grocery pickup and delivery services to limit their exposure to other people.
With such services, shoppers can limit face-to-face encounters by placing orders online and then having the store staff deliver the groceries or putting it in customers’ vehicles.
“We have seen our orders for these services more than double,” said Brian Stenzel, senior director of community engagement at Festival Foods in De Pere.
As a result, time slots for the Click N Go service have been booked from Monday 5:00 p.m. to late Saturday afternoon in the Festival Foods Store at 3007 Mall Drive in Eau Claire.
“We have added additional employees to help with Click N Go orders and are working to keep waiting times as short as possible,” said Stenzel.
The situation is similar at Woodman’s Markets, where pick-up orders for a week in the Altoona Store are booked out. Shop Woodman’s program has a capacity of 60 to 70 time slots per day in Altoona.
“It was definitely a popular service during the outbreak,” said Clint Woodman, president of the Janesville-based chain. “They just have so many people picking up orders from the store that orders are pretty much secured right now.”
In contrast, orders could usually be picked up the next day and sometimes within four hours before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Wisconsin earlier this month.
At one point, Woodman’s in Altoona was so busy that designated buyers couldn’t make it as quickly as usual, forcing the store to “cut back a bit” by limiting the number of pick-up spaces, Woodman said.
The store has tried to reserve most of its delivery spaces, as well as 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Wednesday shopping hours, for seniors and those at higher risk of serious complications from the new coronavirus.
Meanwhile, supermarkets continue to be flooded with customers stocking up in response to the national emergency.
While the demand for staple foods remains high, the festival’s executives currently see no food shortages, according to Stenzel. However, the increase in traffic has made it difficult for employees to fill shelves as fast as customers empty them and has led stores to solve the problem by limiting the number of products that can be purchased at one time.
“Festival Foods receives regular deliveries of products to keep up with demand and provide our guests with the items they need,” said Stenzel.
Woodman’s has also put restrictions on some products to cope with scarce supplies of toilet paper, water, canned foods, and staple foods like flour, sugar and rice, Woodman said.
“When these items become more readily available, we’ll break those limits, but now we want there to be something for everyone,” said Woodman, noting that buyers can generally find what they need but may need to make do with alternative sizes or brands.
“At some point everyone will have stocked up their pantry, freezer, and refrigerator, and things will calm down. But when that will be remains to be seen, ”he said. “This is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.”
The surge showed no signs of easing on Monday, and may even have accelerated somewhat after Governor Tony Evers announced further restrictions on trade and public activity on Monday morning. The Safer-at-Home regulation calls for the closure of all non-essential businesses starting today and calls on people to stay home to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus that has killed four and more than people in the state 400 infected.
“We’re getting smoked right now, probably because of the latest announcement,” said Brooks Tellock, manager of Woodman’s in Altoona, shortly after the news broke.
Festival and Woodman officials said shorter working hours have helped employees have time overnight to store shelves and take additional disinfection measures.
The festival has also recommended elderly guests and those with weakened immune systems to visit stores in the first hours of the day to benefit from the best possible conditions, said Stenzel.
In response to requests from government and health officials that residents practice social distancing to reduce the spread of the virus, the festival continues to encourage people in its stores to stay at least three feet apart, and has when possible , every other cash register closed. Keep guests and staff at a reasonable distance.
In this time of need, the employees worked selflessly for a long time, said Stenzel.
“We have always taken our role as neighbors and grocers very seriously,” he said. “The dedication of our people shows that commitment to making sure people know we are here to help and that families are getting the products they need in these days of uncertainty.”
Still, the festival’s 33 stores across the state are attempting to hire full-time and part-time workers, including permanent and temporary positions, to meet growing demand.