On top of the already existing challenges of running a business, grocery store owners have had unique challenges during the coronavirus pandemic.
Initially supply chain issues of cleaning and everyday essentials – including toilet paper and paper towels – loomed as customers panicked about not being able to get their hands on the items.
Soon after shelves began to remain stocked with those things, shortages in meat production emerged as many processing factories shut down from outbreaks of COVID-19 and other pandemic-related factors.
Dhamu Thamodaran, chief strategy officer at meat producer Smithfield Foods, said just as the meat demand at grocery stores increased -by as much as 60% due to people cooking at home more – meat production overall fell by 25% in April and May.
Barry Majoria of Majoria’s Grocery Store in Boutte said that although there was a jump in meat prices after quarantine, for the most part all meat prices have stabilized.
“I’ve seen the majority of meat prices at the levels they were before covid,” he said. “Pork is close to normal … maybe a little lower. Some beef cuts may be a little higher, but for all intents and purposes the meat prices have pretty much come back to normal.”
David Matherne, owner of River Road Market in Destrehan, agreed.
“Some stuff is normalizing,” Matherne said of prices. “With ground beef we were actually able to have that in our sales ad the last couple weeks. I can’t say it’ll be back to normal, but for the most part it’s sort of leveling off.”
However, Matherne said some shelf items are still hard to come by.
“Cleaning supplies … as soon as we get them, they’re gone,” he said. “And that’s if we even get it in.”
Majoria and Matherne said as far as their next concern for their stores – all eyes are on football season.
“Normally after the 4th we wait on football season, but we don’t know if that’ll happen,” Majoria said of the uncertainty surrounding whether football games will be held. “After the dog days of August with it being so hot and then back to school and Labor Day we normally have football season.”
With high school, LSU and Saints gameday parties and tailgating all times customers stock up on groceries, Majoria said all ears are on sports-related announcements.
“We’re hoping we have a football season, but as it’s going now it doesn’t look too promising,” Matherne said. “But that’s a big part of our sales every weekend. We see a big spike in meat sales and beer sales.”
He said River Road Market’s deli section also sees increased sales related to football season, as people scoop up catering items such as chicken tender trays for tailgating.
“That’s a big part of the business that we’ll miss out on if they don’t have football,” Matherne said. “It’s a new normal. Now we just take it day by day … we just adjust as news hits affecting our business and just be hopeful we can get back to what we’re used to.”