Retailers see drop in inventory due to weather

Paul Hutchings
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Depending on how you look at it, this winter has meant traffic snarls, iced-over roadways and slow driving — or it may have meant skiing, snowmobiling and snow days.

Colemans produce clerk Alex Pelley stocks shelves at the Deer Lake location. Stores across the province are experiencing product shortages at various levels because of the recent harsh winter weather and related power shortages.
— Photo by Paul Hutchings/The Western Star

Local businesses say it has also meant inventory shortages that could continue for the next few weeks, depending, of course, on what else Mother Nature has in store.

Being on an island that produces much less than what it needs in food products means that a lot of products are shipped in on the ferry service. Rough seas amount to delayed ferry trips, often resulting in empty shelves at your favourite stores. A quick glance through some shops in Corner Brook and Deer Lake shows some of the various departments getting a little low.

Store owners say it’s hard to predict what will happen in the coming weeks, but they all agree that if this winter continues the way it has been, there could be more shortages on the way.

Loblaws (which owns Dominion) district manager Lionel Duguay said local products have actually been affected more by the weather than those shipped in, mainly because of the massive power outages experienced in the last week.

“Some places are waiting a week for products to be delivered,” he said. “Milk is affected, bakery products. No one could make anything because of the massive power outages.”

He pointed to deliveries of poultry products as another example. Duguay said his company gets chicken from a local supplier based on the east coast. Because the supplier was unsure of the power situation, it couldn’t kill the birds because the meat may have gone bad if the power shut down again.

“The (ferry service) has been a factor, too,” he said. “Items are coming in late because of the weather and so getting to the shelves late. It’s been a hard winter for us all.”


Creative solutions

Colemans spokesperson Judy Bennett said her company is having issues as well, but finding creative ways to do with what it has.

“There are glitches, sure,” she said. “If a boat is stuck for a day or two we might be a couple of days behind, but we try to spread out the product we do have and rotate it well so the customer doesn’t really see the shortages.”

She said local providers have also had issues but offering a choice does help.

“There are options. You can buy frozen chicken (if you can’t find fresh),” Bennett said. “We really haven’t had the outages that we’ve seen on the news. Ferry delays did affect us, but we were able to work around it.”

For the Home Hardware in Deer Lake, owner Dean Ball said a recent building change has made a difference. His store moved to a new, larger location on Nicholsville Road two years ago. He said there are still issues, sometimes with a four-day wait for products. But the larger store minimizes the effect on stock.

“Is it an issue for us? Yes, but not as great as it would have been in the old store,” he said. “I couldn’t carry as much inventory in the old store. My inventory is probably four times greater now and so I can cover it (when shipments are late).”

He said the company allows for the weather conditions every year and stocks its shelves accordingly, which also helps.

There is no word yet as to whether the situation is dire enough to mean price increases.

Recently a greenhouse project was announced to begin later this year that would supply locally grown vegetables to local grocery stores. Owners hope when it is built, it may help solve transportation and stocking issues traditionally felt by Newfoundland food sellers.


The Western Star

Organizations: Loblaws, Dominion

Geographic location: Deer Lake, Corner Brook, Nicholsville Road Newfoundland Western Star

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