People around the country are stocking up on necessities, so it’s no surprise local grocery stores’ sales have skyrocketed the last few weeks as people worry about having the essentials while potentially being isolated at home due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The entire industry is having supply issues right now,” Alexander City Piggly Wiggly manager Don Stacks said. “We’re doing everything possible to continue to serve our community as best as possible.”
However, as demand increases so do costs. It seems to be because of suppliers rather than local stores.
“My eggs did rise in price but I am making the same gross profit,” Stacks said. “My cost has increased 2 1/2 times what I paid at the beginning of March. If my prices change, I can’t sell it at a loss.”
A dozen Grade AA large eggs currently costs $3.20 at Piggly Wiggly and Nature’s Best Grade AA large eggs are being sold for $4.80 per dozen. Regular large eggs at $1.15 per dozen were not on the shelves Tuesday at Piggly Wiggly.
“Typically this time of year egg prices go up,” Stacks said. “Farmers are cleaning out the egg houses and cycling out chickens.”
Winn-Dixie is selling Grade A large eggs for $1.79 per dozen and its Nellie’s free-range large eggs are $4.89 per dozen. Grade AA eggs were not available at Winn Dixie Tuesday afternoon for proper price comparison.
“We haven’t had any prices go up that I know of, but eggs are being limited per customer because they’re going really fast,” Alexander City Winn-Dixie customer service manager Amber Emenhizer said.
Normally retail stores purchase ground chuck and ground beef in 20-pound tubes already pre-ground but none of that is available on the market, according to Stacks.
“We’re having to buy entire bottom rounds and primals and grinding it ourselves,” Stacks said. “We’re adding beef fat to get the fat content to match the 73/27 ratio.”
This number is considered the lean point and represents lean-to-fat ratio of a particular grind. Ground round is typically lower in fat than most ground beef, so additional fat was added.
As a result, ground beef is seeing an increase in price from $2.79 per pound to $3.99 at Piggly Wiggly. At Winn Dixie, the same 73/27 ground beef is being sold for $4.49 per pound.
“We’re still coming in the lowest in town for ground beef,” Stacks said.
Both stores are seeing a lot of out-of-stock items, especially paper products such as toilet paper and paper towels.
“It just depends on what comes from our warehouse,” Emenhizer said. “We try to make sure all our shelves are filled. We have a lot out of stock, but what we don’t get we offer something else in replace to make customers happy.”
Despite the shortages, Stacks said customers have been supportive.
“Multiple members of the community are very proud and happy on how the store’s stayed stocked and are incredibly appreciative of that,” Stacks said.
Thursday, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall activated the state’s price gouging law in response to Gov. Kay Ivey’s declaring a state of emergency. According to a press release, Marshall describes unconscionable pricing of items for sale or rent as "... a price that is 25% or more above the average price charged in the same area within the last 30 days — unless the increase can be attributed to a reasonable cost in connection with the rental or sale of the commodity — is a prima facie case of unconscionable pricing."
For questions or concerns about this law, visit alabamaag.gov/consumercomplaint or call 1-800-392-5658.