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Dear Customers,  

            Nine months ago, I daresay most of us would not have recognized the words, “Covid” or “pandemic” if they appeared in our newspaper.  Now, you can barely find a page in the paper that doesn’t contain either or both of them – even the sports pages are affected daily. 

            Probably the first and most far reaching effect of this national crisis was the shortage of items on the supermarket shelves.  This marked the early weeks of the siege, long before the virus made its way into the boundaries of Pennsylvania.  Most people were incredulous regarding the lack of toilet paper, paper towels, canned soups, etc.  “Why us?”, we heard over and over again.

            Soon, gradually and insidiously, as people continued to travel with few or no precautions, Covid-19 wormed its way into our state and, ultimately, our county - even our town!  As weeks turned into months, gradually the grocery shelves returned to some semblance of normal even though there are still whole categories which haven’t recovered: liquid soap, disinfecting wipes, canned goods and certain cereals among others.   

            In the intervening months, supply and demand have begun catching up with each other to the point that grocery shopping, while not what it once was, has trended back towards normalcy.  However, winter is approaching, and we find ourselves in the midst of a second surge of positive cases.  Will this spark another period of shortages and panic buying?

            Suppliers are saying “not necessarily!”  Back in March, retailers and wholesalers particularly had no idea to what huge extent their products would be in demand. Their production schedule was based upon what they expected to do this year, based upon every other year.  With the majority of the country at home suddenly, and faced with an abundance of free time, people began baking, doing crafts, gardening, cooking dinner and stress eating!  Flour, for instance, was up 218% between April and September. Americans had always done those things, just not in such prolific numbers and for such an extended period of time. 

            People in the grocery industry maintain “they’ve taken advantage of the time they’ve had to prepare for another onslaught.  Wholesalers have been stockpiling items that would be most coveted if customers must retreat to their homes gain.”  Then, too, they are hopeful that people won’t hoard supplies like they did this past year.  My opinion is that they don’t know people very well if they think that won’t happen. 

            Fast moving items such as paper products and cleaning supplies take a long time for production to catch up with demand.  Consumers are purchasing 15-20% more than what is considered normal and that’s a huge increase for any industry that is used to consistent demand to absorb.  Consequently, we’re still experiencing many out-of-stocks in those categories.  The level of panic most likely won’t be what it was in the spring and early summer.  People are used to it now for the most part – I said, “used to”, not ok with!

            Another factor that annually sees an increase in demand is the upcoming holidays with fresh produce and meat being the most affected.  If we do experience any shortages of products it is expected that we are going to see a drop back into the normal ranges of demand as soon as Christmas is over.  Toilet paper isn’t the big problem it was early on in the crisis.  Producers began making more toilet paper for residential users vs. commercial supplies for offices.  If your favorite variety of a particular brand of soup or salad dressing for instance, hasn’t been available for quite some time its most likely because manufacturer’s began devoting their resources to their best sellers and discontinuing production of the less popular flavors.  That really won’t improve until everything returns to normal.

            Turkeys and hams should be in adequate supply because those items are pre-ordered months in advance of the actual holiday.  Providing of course that our suppliers honor the orders.  Generally, a pre-order means that we are guaranteed to get whatever we ordered since we committed early, but there have been times when we find ourselves shorted items we had counted on.  Smaller turkeys were more popular this year at Thanksgiving because few people hosted huge dinners deciding instead to be thankful with a smaller, more intimate group and at this point in time at least, we foresee no shortages on Christmas hams.  No need to panic!