Grocery stores respond to panic buying, adjust hours

Published 7:00 am Saturday, March 21, 2020

A line of shoppers stretched past the building at Claiborne Hill in Picayune Friday morning, but by afternoon the line was gone. The store was limiting the number of patrons who could enter the building in the morning, because not enough cashiers were scheduled to work, said manager Cassandra Burkett.

“We really want to push the customers not to panic buy,” said Burkett.

The store only has so many goods in stock, and people purchasing large quantities has made it difficult to get products from the warehouses. The store has ordered everything it can from its suppliers, but since panic buying is happening broadly, it could take a few weeks to be fully stocked.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“They can only make bread so fast. They can only milk the cows so fast. It’s going to be a problem nationwide because of the panic buying,” said Burkett.

On Friday the store began limiting the amount of eggs, bread, milk and toilet paper a customer can purchase in a shopping trip, and may add to the list of items depending on how shoppers purchase items.

“We have put limits on some things starting today just so that everybody in Picayune can get a little bit of bread or a little bit of milk,” said Burkett.

In addition to panic buying reducing inventory, the store has also reduced its hours, closing at 8 p.m. instead of 10 p.m., to allow employees more time to clean and stock the shelves. Large chains like Walmart have also reduced hours to give employees more time to stock and clean. The Walmart in Picayune went from 24 hours to 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The reduced hours can make it difficult for some people who still have to go to work to purchase their groceries. Amanda Tate went grocery shopping for three different people who could not make it to the store Friday morning. Tate knew to come prepared for the line with a snack, because she works as a cook at a local grocery store. The seemingly endless stream of customers has worn staff members out, but staff members and customers have been kind, said Tate.

“Since this has happened everybody’s been so much nicer. The public is so much sweeter,” said Tate.

Some grocery store customers have begun wearing facemasks and gloves while they make their purchases.

Pam Hobgood was one of the shoppers lined up outside of Claiborne Hill Friday wearing a protective mask. Hobgood said she is suffering from sinus issues, and the mask was protecting her from pollen. Although she has no symptoms of COVID-19, Hobgood works in the medical field and said she was also told by a doctor she should wear a mask in public to prevent spreading any illnesses.

The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illness, including COVID-19. The CDC website states that facemasks should be worn if a healthcare professional recommends it or by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms.