It has now been almost three months since that initial two-week buying surge that began as shelter-in-place orders were issued and grocers’ shelves around the country were emptied of food. Harvest Market did not escape this phenomenon as our sales increased by 90% during the first week of that Covid-19-induced buying spree.
Since then sales have continued to be strong even though we continue to suffer much higher levels of out-of-stocks across multiple departments. Currently our buyers’ biggest challenges continue to be in obtaining certain canned goods, wheat flours, frozen foods and immune-related nutritional supplements. They have had to bring in alternative brands when available as long as these replacement products meet our normal ingredient standards. Spot shortages of any product are always a possibility, however.
Besides the general availability problems caused by over-demand, we have also endured cancelled deliveries caused by both a lack of drivers or warehouse shutdowns as their employees test positive for Covid-19. We have also been rationed by our major suppliers in both the total number of cases we have been able to receive per order as well as being limited to one or two cases of individual items per order. This rationing to us by our suppliers is the main reason Harvest Market has instituted buying limits on what we sell to our customers; i.e. one pack of butter, two cartons of eggs or two rolls of toilet paper. Even with these limits we still often sell out of these rationed products when demand exceeds supply.
Here’s the thing, though. Even though we may not have exactly what you want on any given day, we still have plenty of food. This is your opportunity to be resilient and try new foods, to give other brands or varieties a try and to just practice patience as our supply chain lurches in fits and starts back to normal.
Though we just received a copy of a list of more than 500 products that our main supplier estimates will be out for at least another 8 weeks, thousands of products are on our shelves now and more are coming back every week. Yes, some products are going to be in short supply for a while—wheat flours and baking yeast come to mind. King Arthur’s sales on flour, for example have gone up 600% since mid-March. They are completely unable to come anywhere close to supplying the tens (hundreds?) of thousands of home-bound bakers who have dusted off their 1990’s-era bread machines.
Some Muir Glen tomato products are completely sold out until this year’s tomato crop is harvested, processed and then shipped. We won’t see them again until the fall. Amy’s—the queen of our frozen section—has suspended production on dozens of their slower selling items to focus on producing their better sellers due to limited supplies of wheat flour and tomatoes (think pizzas here.)
There are some harsh new realities we are going to all have to accept for a while. Some of your favorite brands may cease to exist. The first major casualty was the Three Twins brand of ice creams. Weckerly’s—a maker of ice cream sandwiches–has pulled back to limited distribution in Philadelphia. Will they survive? Our bulk herb and spice section is a casualty of the pandemic and will not be returning soon, if ever. We cannot maintain adequate sanitation in any such self-serve setting. Greeting cards were boxed up and put into storage in order to rearrange the cash register area for maximum social distancing.
On a brighter note, we have reinstituted our monthly specials after a two-month hiatus.
Please note, however, that we can still not guarantee availability of any product advertised on sale and do not offer rain checks. And purchasing limits may also apply as supplies dictate.
In this time of uncertainty, please know that we are doing everything we can to continue to provide you with the most nourishing, sustainable and delicious foods we can find.
Thank you for your continued support as we navigate these uncharted waters together.
And thank you for Masking Up, standing in line as we do our best to monitor social distancing and being patient and kind towards our staff and your fellow shoppers.