The feared rush on stores never came, but many retailers reported heightened Y2K buying activity in items such as bottled water, canned products, paper goods, prescription refills and batteries.
That, twinned with holiday purchasing of deli items, amounted to a burst of sales for many retailers.
At Food Lion, Salisbury, N.C., Chris Ahearn, a spokeswoman, said, "Sales were pretty normal, up until the two to three days before New Year's. The biggest pull for us was drinking water the last few days of the year. We did ship extra supplies to our stores from the warehouse, so we had adequate supplies available, but we did end up shipping a lot more to our stores. Also, there was an increase in canned items -- meats and vegetables -- but not as strong as water."
At IGA, Chicago, Shannon Blagg, spokeswoman, said, "We didn't see a lot of stockpiling. IGA retailers have been concerned about [customer] panic, but they expressed to their customers that everything is going to be fine. In addition, all the distributors had so many procedures in place, there was a sense of security the whole time.
"There was also some concern that retailers could have incited some [Y2K] concerns for the sake of profit, but everyone I heard about in the industry was not doing that. IGA made a commitment not to do Y2K sales."
At Albertson's, Boise, Idaho, an official said, "It went very, very well, just as we had anticipated. We didn't have any problems in terms of our ability to open stores and serve customers, and we didn't have any problems with out-of-stock. Our systems worked properly and we were in business."
Another Albertson's official pointed out the chain "sold a lot of canned meats, toilet paper, bottled water and batteries. Over the holidays, you never know [if that is the reason for the increase]. Sales increased in beverages -- water and most others -- but it's the holidays. Maybe more people were choosing to stay home because of New Year's Eve cancellations. There was also an increase of prescription refills, which could be due to the end of the year with [customers'] insurance. There was an increase in deli sales due to [New Year's] celebrations."
Mickey Clerc, spokesman for Winn-Dixie Stores, Jacksonville, Fla., said, "There was no evidence of Y2K buying. In areas where we expected people to stock up, we haven't been sold out of anything. We just kept the shelves full, and had ample supplies of items we would normally stock for any unusual type of bad weather. We're not aware of a real run on any commodity."
Norman C. Mayne, president and chief executive officer of Dorothy Lane Market, Dayton, Ohio, said, "I think Y2K was overplayed by the folks who give us information. We had three people who worked all night New Year's Eve and turned on all systems and made sure they were all working."
Kenneth W. Macey, chairman of Macey's, Sandy, Utah, said, "Everything is running and going smooth. In the last two weeks of 1999, we had a rush on water and paper items. Our big Y2K push came in the first four months of 1999. We're open 24 hours, so we had extra security on hand New Year's Eve."
Jack Brown, chairman, president and CEO of Stater Bros. Markets, Colton, Calif., said his company did not experience any Y2K problems. Brown said Stater increased certain inventories at the stores "because it was something that was very important, and we went through a ton of water, canned meats, canned vegetables, baby food, Pampers and can openers. In fact, we did double the business we would normally do during the last week of the year."
Bob Piccinini, chairman, president and CEO of Save Mart Supermarkets, Modesto, Calif., said his company had no Y2K glitches but he doesn't think the investment in Y2K preparation was wasted. "We spent a lot of time and energy on Y2K over the last six months, at the same time we were installing new hardware and software. So the two projects dovetailed nicely, and with what's in place now, everything is like new."
Ron Johnson, chairman, president and CEO of Jitney-Jungle Stores of America, Jackson, Miss., said, "All systems are 100% OK. Jitney saw some movement among customers on the Thursday and Friday prior to New Year's Day to stock up on water, batteries and canned meats, but it was nothing of any major significance."
However, the stores prepared for the extra demand "just in case there was a rush at the end of the year," he said.
America's Second Harvest, the nation's largest hunger-relief organization, issued a call last week for people who stockpiled extra food supplies to donate the surplus to local food banks between Jan. 15 and Feb. 15.
In partnership with Kellogg Co., Second Harvest launched a national food drive under the banner "Y GO 2 WASTE," to redistribute food and supplies to the hungry and needy. Second Harvest said it is looking for nonperishable foods like meals in cans, stews and protein products like peanut butter and tuna, along with batteries and diapers.