West Virginia retailers, suppliers working to restock under increased demand

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Restocking work was ongoing in earnest at stores across West Virginia as the Mountain State’s residents, like those in all other states, continued to deal with the effects of the coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic.

Even without confirmed cases in the state, many pictures from shoppers on social media have shown empty store shelves in recent days.

Traci Nelson, president of the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association, said those pictures did not tell full stories.

Traci Nelson

Her organization represents those in the petroleum marketing, retail grocery and convenience store industries.

“Our members are facing the same situation that everyone across the country is. They’re getting runs on certain items — toilet paper, hand sanitizer, things like that — and it is clearing off shelves,” Nelson said.

“People just need to keep in mind that we’re continually restocking items. Our food supply’s strong. We’re going to get those items back in, maybe not as quickly as people would like, but we’re working to supply West Virginians with the products they need.”

Bridget Lambert, president of the West Virginia Retailers Association, said increased demand was the reason for low stocks, not issues with available supplies.

Bridget Lambert

“Consumers who are going in and stockpiling merchandise and just clearing the shelves, really aren’t being kind to their neighbors or helping,” Lambert said.

“Our recommendation is that a good measure to use right now is, if you won’t use an item within the next two weeks, please leave it on the shelf for the next customer who may really need it today.”

Both Lambert and Nelson talked about increased demand at stores during appearances on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

“The suppliers are facing the same problems the grocers are facing. They’re getting hit with all of these additional orders because people are going out and buying four or five times, maybe ten times, what they need,” Nelson said.

“They have more demand so it’s taking a little longer to get the items back in the store. It’s not that we’re running out, it’s just taking a little bit longer to get the items to the stores.”

In some cases, limits have been put on purchases of high-demand items like toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

Earlier this week, President Donald Trump specifically asked Americans not to hoard groceries and other supplies during a press briefing at the White House.

“You don’t have to buy so much,” he said after a call with food industry executives.

“There’s no need for anybody in the country to hoard essential food supplies.”

Governor Jim Justice echoed those comments during a Monday event at the State Capitol.

“We don’t need to panic. Our President assured us that he had been meeting with Publix and Walmart and Kroger and all those people and said absolutely, without any question, we don’t have a food supply issue,” Governor Justice said.

In some cases, stores were reducing daily operating hours.

“That’s so that our employees can get the shelves restocked, get our supplies in, sanitize the stores,” Lambert said.

Her organization represents more than 500 stores.

This week, some retailers like Sephora and White House Black Market have announced temporary store closures nationwide but were continuing online operations.

Those with the Huntington Mall in Barboursville were advising shoppers to call ahead to check hours at specific stores.

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