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Scenes of empty Texas grocery shelves won’t last long, industry says

 People jog towards the Kroger supermarket on Cedar Springs Rd in Dallas, during freezing rain ahead of the snow storm, on Feb. 2. 2022.
Solomon Wilson
/
KERA News
People jog towards the Kroger supermarket on Cedar Springs Road in Dallas during freezing rain ahead of the snow storm Wednesday.

Texans left many grocery store shelves empty this week as they stocked up for the winter storm.

But all that prepping shouldn’t have a long-term effect on store supplies, partly because grocery store chains have massive distribution centers.

“These distribution centers hold a lot of product,” said Gary Huddleston, grocery industry consultant with the Texas Retailers Association. “I don’t see any issue in being able to restock stores once the trucks can get [in].”

Huddleston said that in general, distribution centers have a 40- to 60-day supply on hand, although not for every item.

Christy Lara, director of public relations for Albertsons and Tom Thumb’s southern division, said those stores expanded receiving hours before this week’s storm and again this weekend – in case people come flooding back.

“We’re ready for that and anticipating getting the stores back into condition as soon as we possibly can,” she said.

Lara said the grocery store picture is much better than it was after last year’s winter storm. Tom Thumb has more than 60 locations in Texas and Albertsons has more than 40.

A Kroger representative said she couldn't accommodate an interview. Fiesta declined an interview request.

The current wintry weather is not a repeat of last year’s winter storm. Regulators said tens of thousands of people lost power due to downed power lines this year, but forced blackouts were not necessary to keep Texas’ electric grid in balance.

But Huddleston, whose organization represents most of the large grocery stores in the state, said grocers augmented their energy systems after the deadly winter storm in February 2021.

“In-store generators and generators at distribution centers – that’s the main change that has happened based upon [learning] and best practices from last year,” Huddleston said.

He also said stores in North Texas are working more closely with the electric utility O nc or to keep the power on at distribution centers, as well as letting individual stores know how long they can expect any power outage to last.

“If they … have an idea of how long anticipated power might be off, then they can make decisions on how to protect the product,” he said.

Got a tip? Email Bret Jaspers at bjaspers@kera.org. You can follow Bret on Twitter @bretjaspers.

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