Empty shelves are back at grocery stores in the D.C. region — when will stores return to normal inventory?


WASHINGTON (WDVM) — Supply chain issues, the lingering pandemic, and winter weather are causing consumers in the D.C. region to see empty shelves on their grocery runs.

“We’re underemployed in the first place for this industry, and we already were dealing with a trucker shortage before the pandemic ever happened, so they just continue to compound,” said Doug Baker, vice president of industry relations at The Food Industry Association.

Like many industries across the country, Baker said the omicron surge is responsible for staffing shortages.

“It’s affecting the vaccinated and unvaccinated. The industry is experiencing a higher level of callouts,” said Baker.

In addition to coronavirus complications, the weather also plays a major impact on the supply chain. The two snowstorms that hit the region last week significantly contributed to delays, causing some trucks to get caught in storms.

“Major arteries that are delivering goods are completely snarled from those types of weather events,” said Baker.

Every day that a truck is late getting to its final destination, it slows down the process of getting that product to the shelves.

“If a truck misses a delivery window at the retailer at the wholesaler, that has to be rescheduled, and a lot of times, it can’t be that day,” said Baker. “It’s typically the next day or the following because there are so many trucks.”

While some believe the shortage means lack of food supply, Baker said this isn’t the case.

“Food is in the system. Unfortunately, it just always isn’t in the right place, and it’s taking a little bit longer to get it to the shelf,” he said.

WDVM spoke to Giant Foods about the shortages in their stores. The company says they are working to replenish inventory at a rapid rate.

“There are several challenges all retailers are facing at the moment that have impacted our ability to execute our business to our normal standards. Most significantly, the prolonged pandemic and last week’s weather has caused continued strain on our supply chain, but our Giant teams are working with our manufacturing partners to replenish shelves as quickly as possible. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, our store teams, distribution associates, and delivery partners have gone above and beyond to continue to service to the best of our ability. We appreciate the patience and good will we’ve received from our customers as we work to improve our service levels.”

Giant Foods

So, when can you expect to see the shelves stocked? Baker says it could be a while. He expects worker shortages to continue throughout most of 2022 as the pandemic continues.

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