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Y2K and Your Food Supplies

from LSRY2K (SelfReliance@iname.com)
This came across my desk today ...

From: Holly Deyo Subject: Y2K and Your Food Supplies t gives a clear idea what we might expect in our food supply futures as it directly impacts you, the consumer. It does not address the larger issues of not being able to transport food from the DCs (Distribution Centers) to the individual stores, but their situation would be much the same. Should the power fail, only what would be left on the shelves of dry goods, would be useable. Past three days, foods would thaw and shortly thereafter spoil even if it's in your home without backup generators.

The chain of no electricity has far reaching implications especially in the industry.

Grocery Stores and Y2k

>From a grocery store managers perspective.

I'm the manager of a grocery and drug combination store which is part of one of the top five grocery chains in the country. The store is on track to do about $40 million this year, well above the industry average and close to the top of my division. We employ over 200 people, most of them full time. Each week we strive to satisfy over 50,000 customers. I hope this establishes my credentials. For perhaps obvious reasons, I'd rather not say where or with whom.

The closing months of 1999 should be interesting. I expect to see a great deal of panic buying, particularly in the last few weeks of December. That's not difficult to foresee. How well our supply network, both company warehouses and local vendors, can keep pace with the increased demand remains to be seen.

In any typical week, we're out of stock on somewhere around 2% of the SKUs. Some grocery stores are higher, few are lower. By 12/1/1999, I would expect that figure to rise to 40%. By the end of the month, I would not be surprised to see out-of-stocks at 75%, and whatever remains will be the slower-moving items. Keep in mind, too, that that could mean three to four times my typical sales for that week, which is already the best or second best of the year. That means extremely crowded aisles and extremely long lines. Beware.

On 01/01/2000, we will be at the mercy of our electricity and telecommunications providers. Should the electricity fail, our backup generators should last us around six hours. During that time, power is routed to only the registers (minus the POS [Point of Sale] scanning system), the pharmacy computer system, and a few lights scattered around the store. Freezers are down, HVAC is down, all other electrical systems are down.

After six hours we are completely in the dark. The next time you are at your local grocery store, take note of the lighting. Most stores, mine included, have a lot of glass at the front end of the store and nowhere else. If the store were to go black, the back half of the store as well as the side perimeters are virtually unnegotiable without a flashlight.

The registers would be completely useless. Imagine how long the lines would be if we had to run around getting price checks on every single item, hand-write receipts, manually calculate sales tax and total, etc. Some problems could be alleviated somewhat: hand-ticket the merchandise (extremely time-consuming and virtually impossible given our present payroll constraints), ignore the sales tax, etc. We would become something like a really big, really empty, really dark, and possibly really cold indoor farmers' market. Not a pretty picture. In all honesty, I would lock the doors. So would my competitor down the street (who doesn't even have six hours of backup power). So would everyone else in town, from the 7-11 to Wal-Mart.

This is not idle conjecture, by the way. Perhaps some electricity providers will be ready by the big day, but my local electric company began its remediation efforts earlier this year. I have little confidence that they will make it. The loss of electricity is a very real threat.

And that's just electricity. Even if electricity were to work, disruptions elsewhere could close me as well. Should the phones not work, we would not be able to transmit orders to our warehouse. Should transportation difficulties arise, we might be unable to restock even if we were able to place orders. Should there be civil unrest, well, I'm not going to place my life at risk to stop the spikey-hairs.

I would love to be the hero and keep my store open and feed everyone who needs food. I like selling food. But I can foresee many difficulties in achieving that. Quite frankly, at this point, such a task seems improbable.

We can live without The Gap. We can live without science fiction booksellers. But should my store, and my industry, have to lock its doors for an extended period of time, many will suffer. I welcome all comments and will attempt to answer any questions.

Best wishes, Matt Grocer Guru"

(posted 7431 days ago)

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