Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Shopping In a Pandemic: Kroger “Can’t Keep Alfredo on the Shelf”

The empty Alfredo sauce shelves at the Kroger in Oxford, MS. / Photo by Julia James

By Julia James
Journalism student
hottytoddynews@gmail.com

Across the country, grocery stores have seen big changes in people’s shopping habits during the coronavirus pandemic. Frozen food has become more popular, people are making fewer trips, and online shopping has skyrocketed. Here in Oxford, Kroger has experienced many of these national trends. 

According to Assistant Store Manager Derrick Moore, the store has been closing earlier, but they have been working more total hours overall because of added cleaning hours at night. 

“People would normally just shop around and get small things here and there, now they’re only coming once a week, but when they come they have big baskets instead of the small items, grabbing everything at once,” Moore said. 

John Avant, a Kroger customer, said that he finds grocery shopping these days to be much more difficult. He said that his wife is very afraid of the pandemic, which has left him to do all of the shopping. She sends him to the store with a very detailed list, but he often struggles to find things on it or the items are out of stock. He also said that he has noticed himself buying more than he really needs, as he buys lots in advance thinking they might need items instead of running in for one or two things right before making dinner. 

Moore said that despite this shift in shopping habits, total sales at the Oxford Kroger have not changed dramatically. Peak shopping hours have shifted as a result of this change in shopping habits, with the weekends seeing a higher influx of customers instead of the steady stream throughout the week they saw before. Moore explained that they have been paying close attention to these trends to adjust their employee shifts accordingly. 

The food items that have seen the largest increase in demand were bottled water, frozen foods, spaghetti sauce, and pasta. They have also seen rises in toilet paper, cleaning products, and dog food. Candy has not increased as they were expecting. 

“Pasta has shot through the roof. And Alfredo sauce. Can’t keep it on the shelf,” Moore said. 

Jean Chandler, another customer, said that since she doesn’t go anywhere else these days, she really enjoys grocery shopping at the newly renovated Kroger. 

“I love the new store! I’ve suffered through this renovation with them, but so glad for them that we got it. I love the variety of the products, and honestly probably buy more than I need,” Chandler said. 

Widening aisles and spacing out displays was already part of the planned renovation, which made adapting to COVID protocols easier for Kroger staff. 

The planned renovation and expansion began in August 2019, which has doubled the overall size of the grocery store. The renovation and expansion of the Oxford Kroger was delayed about 3 months due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Moore. The grand opening of the new store was originally scheduled for August 24, but was pushed to November 11. 

“[The delay in the renovation] was a headache, because we had to continue to deal with the construction workers breaking stuff, we’re still running a business, and we have the fire marshall coming in here every day making sure the building is up to code,” Moore said. 

Chris Harrison, a Kroger shopper, said that right now she struggles to find things in the new layout, but that overall she finds the cleanliness very appealing and enjoys the selection in the new deli. 

Kroger’s operations have also been altered by the increased popularity of curbside pick-up services. “It’s a 100% increase… The future is pickup. All of our resources are going to pick-up,” Moore said. 

The process seems to move relatively quickly and seamlessly, with cars pulling up into numbered parking spots and popping open their trunks. An employee comes out from the store and unloads the groceries, leaves the receipt, and briefly discusses the groceries with the customer. Cars were driving away within 5-7 minutes of having arrived. 

The Oxford Kroger processes approximately 216 curbside pick-up orders each day, with a goal of increasing that number to 300.

Chandler said that despite other members of her family using curbside pick-up, she likes to shop for herself. She enjoys looking at the new products and changing up her diet. Other shoppers emphasized the appeal of continuing to pick items out for themselves. 

“If I need a rotten banana, I want to pick out my own bananas!” said Harrison.