Smith: Panic buying causing shortages at Food City

Hank Hayes • Mar 24, 2020 at 5:30 PM

Food City President and CEO Steve Smith said Tuesday that panic buying is “the leading contributor” to shortages at its stores.

Smith, in an online news conference to give a COVID-19 update, stressed that customers should not hoard items but should buy only what they need for the coming week and give the supply chain time to catch up with demand.

Stores, Smith said, have been told not to order paper products, hand sanitizer and disinfectants, but when Food City gets those items, they will be allocated to stores.

“First, I’d like to stress there’s absolutely no evidence of food or food packaging being involved in the transmission of the virus,” Smith told reporters. “This is not a food-borne illness, and it is not known to be transferred via food.”

Smith noted Food City has hired 76 new associates at its distribution center and shifted more than 140 employees to that facility over the last few days

The company, Smith said, has also hired more than 1,200 new associates at its 130 stores on the way to hiring 2,500 new teammates.

“We are continuing to experience out-of-stocks at store level due to some manufacturer shortages and cuts to our distribution center,” he said. “We anticipate this being an ongoing problem in the coming weeks.”

Then, quoting a friend, Smith declared the United States will not run out of food.

“Grocers will not run out of food,” he stressed. “Precautions are being taken to ensure your local grocery store is as safe as possible. Our stores will remain open seven days a week. There are the same number of mouths to feed as there were a month ago.”

Smith also pointed out there’s been an increase in customers using e-commerce options such a Food City’s GoCart, curbside pickup and home delivery.

Store hours have been changed to 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. to give associates time to sanitize and restock stores.

Seniors 65 years or older are encouraged to shop during the 7 a.m. hour.

Smith said about 16,000 associates are expected to get a piece of a $3 million bonus.

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