A grocery chain's preparation for Y2k

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I had a conversation a few days ago with a friend of mine who works in the regional distribution center of a grocery chain. The topic turned to Y2k and she had a few interesting things to say.

While there have been a number of calls from people asking for explanations of date codes on cans, there has been no noticeable increase in business in terms of volume seen at the warehouse. (What she suggests for the can coding problem is to mark the can with the month/year purchased & then use it within a year or purchase.) There is normally around a 10% increase in business for this company starting in November due to charities' Christmas season buying of cases of canned gooods for food banks.

She did say that the normal 6-week inventory in the distribution center's warehouse is going to 10 weeks in anticipation of Y2k problems. I'm not sure if they're anticipating vendor problems so much as the public stocking up in advance.

If my expectation of a public buying panic between Christmas and the rollover comes true, I'm skeptical that they have enough trucks to move this additional inventory from the warehouse to the stores. Perhaps they would divert trucks moving product from their vendors to the warehouse.

If Y2k turns out to be a BITR from a technical perspective and if I'm wrong about the pre-Y2k panic, I see a possible inventory recesson in the 1st quarter of Y2k as companies who have built up a just-in-case inventory stop stop inventories to get back to their just-in-time mode.


-- Mikey2 (mikey2k@he.wont.eat.it), September 19, 1999


Mike, they would need the warehouse space not the store space to store the additional inventory. Have you ever looked in the back of your grocery store and see the amount of space they have to store goods? That's why store shelves are restocked every 3 days. Safeway stores in the Bay Area (Concord, CA), specifically I know, have deliveries every day. The stores will only restock as long as there is space on the shelves to put the merchandise. If people start all at once buying up goods, the trucks won't be able to keep up with the supply in demand. If the warehouses can't keep up with stocking the warehouse, then the food shortages will have begun. Read Mitchell Barnes thread "Cynthia Beal on Food Chain," it will give you a pretty good idea on what it takes to stock a grocery store. If it's a BITR, and warehouses are busting at the gills with food, I'm looking at big discounts in the future. If it goes the other way, well, we all know the rest of the story.

-- bardou (bardou@baloney.com), September 19, 1999.

Bardou, I think most of what you say restates my position, i.e. it would be difficult to restock the stores from the warehouse (which is where most of the inventory is located) in the event of a public buying panic. I am skeptical about the large discounts you suggest. In the event that Y2k=BITR and they find themselves with a large inventory after the rollover, I think there might be some discounts but nothing huge -- it would depend on what it costs them to hold the inventory and if it's not to much then they would just let it deplete through normal sales.

In the event of a public panic, I expect some attempt would be made to limit purchases, even if it's as simple as 1 grocery cartfull per customer.

If the grocery chain can put up that much food in the warehouse, I wonder why the feds are recommending against stocking up for more than 3 days as being disruptive. Certainly it would be if everyone does it all at the same time. But a public announcement campaign educating the public to prepare in a gradual, orderly fashion for the Red Cross standard of two weeks would result in more people being prepared and this preparation would be spread out over time and wouldn't be disruptive. Even if those who did prepare for two weeks did it all at once, it would still be spread out over the population as not everyone will respond at the same time.


-- Mikey2k (mikey2k@he.wont.eat.it), September 19, 1999.


Yes, sudden increased demand will necessitate mandatory food rationing. This is simple common sense, and it will infuriate millions of spoiled Americans who can't have their way.

Earlier this year I was purchasing absurdly large amounts of food items on special sales and received many odd looks from the cashiers and shelf stockers.

I did nothing illegal as there were no limits, yet I felt uncomfortable knowing these people were aware I was preparing while they were not.

So now I place wholesale orders out of town and have them shipped via UPS. Only the UPS driver knows. His first clue was the cast iron stove delivered earlier this year. By the time he hauled in the 55 gallon water barrels, he's probably wondering what else he'll be delivering in the next few months.

The grocery cashiers have noticed I'm not making any more megapurchases. Maybe they imagine I've changed my viewpoint and finally become convinced that Y2K will be only a BITR. I don't mention Y2K anymore because they believe it's irrelevant.

On another note, a few times I have deliberately backpeddled on my Y2K warnings to certain DGIs and confessed I've overreacted. Their response is an expression of puzzlement, a sigh of relief, and an opinion that there will truly be no real lasting problems. Their honest disclosures evince they are true DGIs and not DWGIs.

This really catches them offguard, but I can't maintain that frame of mind, so I default back into doomer mode. Sometimes they laugh; sometimes they don't. Cheap entertainment.

-- Randolph (dinosaur@williams-net.com), September 19, 1999.

>absurdly large amounts on sale

We have tried to avoid that by having different members of the household visit the stores at different times to buy the items on sale.

Cumulatively our purchases are absurd--but on each trip everthing looks normal.

-- cgbg jr (cgbgjr@webtv.net), September 19, 1999.

>absurdly large amounts on sale

We have tried to avoid that by having different members of the household visit the stores at different times to buy the items on sale.

Cumulatively our purchases are absurd--but on each trip everything looks normal.

-- cgbg jr (cgbgjr@webtv.net), September 19, 1999.

cgbg jr:

I am the only GI in my family. I suspect my mother is a DWGI.

I knew late last year that I would be on my own in making preparations as no one is willing to help me. Apparently stocking up is considered stupid, foolish and irrational. And they don't want to be thought of poorly.

Rather than making numerous trips to the grocery stores, which would be wasteful of time and gasoline, I decided to just get it over with.

Does it really matter this late in the year? I did not realize how complacent everyone would REMAIN.

Those GIs who I know personally I can count on ONE HAND.

-- Randolph (dinosaur@williams-net.com), September 19, 1999.

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