Winter Storm Elliott, otherwise known as the “Bomb Cyclone,” blizzard or arctic air event, is affecting millions of people around the country—and grocers—in the final days before the Christmas holiday. News outlets throughout the U.S. reported on brisk customer traffic ahead of the storm as shoppers rushed to finish their errands.
The blitz reflects the parallel timing of holiday celebrations and everyday essential stock-ups in case people have to hunker down for a day or two. One Chicago-area shopper told the Chicago Tribune that she was at the store for a multitude of reasons. “I’ve already gone to Aldi, then I’m going over to Trader Joe’s. Yesterday I was at Whole Foods,” said local resident Heather Flamme. “I’m just stocking up because I don’t want to come out again.”
Tina Potthoff, senior vice president of communications at Hy-Vee, Inc., told Progressive Grocer that the situation is unusual from the retailer’s perspective, too. “This is an interesting situation as it has been awhile since we have seen a severe storm across so much of the Midwest- and our trade territory -- occur before a Christmas weekend. We are seeing many customers making purchases for the winter storm as well as their holiday meals so stores have been very busy. However, it’s all hands on deck as employees continue to stock shelves to keep up with demand,” she said.
Given the days-out forecast for this major winter storm, retailers have used the time to prepare to meet shoppers’ needs. “We have moved our store deliveries off the days that are supposed to be most impacted by weather this week. This is allowing us to get product to our stores sooner while also making sure our drivers stay safe with the winter weather coming in. We have been able to fulfill all store deliveries at this time,” Potthoff reported.
Likewise, the management team at Tops Friendly Markets worked to ensure that locations were adequately stocked for essentials before the snow fell. "At Tops. we are accustomed to preparing for weather related events being based here in Buffalo, NY. After last month’s winter storm that arrived right before the Thanksgiving holiday, we learned how to adjust accordingly. From bringing in shipments earlier in the week to adjusting staffing, we wanted to reassure customers we were going to not only have the essentials of bread, milk, and eggs but also the items they desired to fulfill their holiday needs," Kathy Sautter, public and media relations manager, told Progressive Grocer. "We are fortunate to have our warehouse centrally located here in Western New York for deliveries and have great working relationships with all of our vendor partners, many of which are local as well."
According to AccuWeather, the snowstorm is continuing its path over the Plains and Rockies and into the Midwest and parts east. “As the storm strengthens into a powerful blizzard over the Midwest into Friday, travel is likely to grind to a halt as dangerous and life-threatening conditions unfold from the storm’s high winds, snow and plunging temperatures,” the weather forecast service projected.
Employee-owned Hy-Vee operates more than 285 retail stores across eight Midwestern states and has a team of more than 93,000 employees. The West Des Moines, Iowa-based company is No. 30 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. Williamsville, N.Y.-based Tops Markets LLC operates 150 supermarkets, including five franchise stores, and employs more than 14,000 associates in New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont. The banner’s parent company, Northeast Grocery Inc., is No. 44 on The PG 100.