Last week's wintry weather system caused a spike in supermarket sales throughout the Midwest and East, including an early run on Valentine's Day gifts, according to some retailers interviewed by SN last week.
Ahead of the approaching storm, which dumped more than a foot of snow in many places on Tuesday and Wednesday, retailers said they saw customers stock up on the usual staples, with a few extras like candy, flowers and gift cards thrown in.
“We noticed that people picked up a lot of Valentine's Day gifts on Monday and Tuesday, to be ready for their sweethearts on Wednesday,” said Tracy Pawelski, a spokeswoman for Giant-Carlisle and Tops, which operates stores in some of the hardest-hit areas.
Barry Scher, vice president of public affairs for Stop & Shop and Giant-Landover, sister chains to Giant-Carlisle and Tops under Ahold, said even the small amount of winter weather that hit the Baltimore-Washington corridor was enough to cause widespread buying of bread, milk, eggs and toilet paper ahead of the storm.
“If we have a threat of a snowstorm, people start closing schools before the first flake hits,” he said.
Giant stores were able to keep their shelves well stocked, and all scheduled deliveries were able to get through, despite some delays, he said.
He said four Giant stores in the suburbs of Washington lost power during the storm, which brought heavy icing to the region and downed power lines. Two of the stores that lost power were still running on backup generators late last week.
One independent in Pennsylvania said he would have appreciated more dire warnings from weather forecasters.
“Business on Monday [prior to the storms] was fantastic, but would have been even better if the weatherman knew how severe the storms were going to be,” Scott Karns, chief executive officer of eight-store Karns Foods, Mechanicsburg, Pa., where 6-8 inches of snow, ice and sleet fell over 24 hours beginning Tuesday. “It's as if they didn't hype it enough.”
He said all his stores remained open Wednesday, but business became “very slow” and road conditions turned hazardous.