MADISON, Wis. — There's been a noticeable shift in what it looks like to go to a grocery store. Someone wiping down carts at the front of the store, markings on the floor detailing social distancing guidelines, a clear barrier between checkout clerks and customers.
“We take sanitation specifically in our stores very, very serious,” said Kevin Metcalfe, who runs Metcalfe's Market with his brother.
All of the extra sanitation requires workers.
“Every cart has been sanitized between every single visit by a customer,” Metcalfe said. “So that takes labor, it takes time, it's our commitment to our customers and to our employees, so those type of jobs, we need to fill those shifts so we're asking for that.”
Metcalfe said they are hiring a lot more than that.
“We're hiring, consistently, whether it be baggers, utility clerks, or safety patrols,” Metcalfe said.
That is indicative of a state-wide trend: Grocery stores are looking for workers.
“We still don't have enough people to fill these retail jobs,” said Brandon Scholz, president of the Wisconsin Grocers Association.
Scholz spoke on the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin Podcast “The Dairy Signal” Wednesday. One thing he talked about was staffing at grocery stores across the state.
“I saw one the other day and he said at any day in the year or the month we have 200 openings that we can fill tomorrow,” Scholz said. “So that workforce is always a challenge.”
Scholz said they haven't seen many outbreaks of coronavirus among grocery staff in the state. Metcalfe said he hasn't at his stores either.
“It's been a very safe environment, I feel very comfortable about that,” Metcalfe said.
It's something Scholz said the industry is working at every day.
”The anxiety now continues to what do you do to continue to safeguard your workforce, to add to your workforce and to deal with what comes next, that's an ongoing challenge.” Scholz said.
What's come with the pandemic is a challenge for stocking.
At first, the rush on stores made keeping up with demand difficult. Now, people are simply shopping at grocery stores more often as people eat out less in pandemic-restricted restaurant settings.
“I have many friends that are in that industry, and my heart goes out to those guys,” Metcalfe said about the restaurant industry.
The added shopping has made for uneven increases in demands. Manufacturers are focused on supplying top products and maybe behind on secondary ones. That means shoppers may not find the exact product they're looking for — even if they found it in the same store the week before.
“That is a continuing problem that the grocers just have to deal with and they have to work with their suppliers and their warehouses and the manufacturers are struggling to make that all happen,” Scholz said.
It's also potentially something shopper should prepare for as the calendar moves into the holiday shopping rush.
“So we are missing some product lines that maybe people are used to,” Metcalfe said. “But in general I feel pretty good about our stock inventory.”