‘Panic Shoppers’ set sights on Hardin

Thursday, March 19, 2020
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Photo by Luella N. Brien

Reese and Ray’s IGA in Hardin has been hit by swarms of panic shoppers, many of whom are from the Billings area. Multiple shipments of household goods, perishable and non- perishable food, and produce have sold out, including toilet paper. The store implemented a two-package limit on toilet paper.

Article Image Alt Text

Photo by Luella N. Brien

Produce has been flying off the shelves Reese and Ray’s IGA in Hardin as panic shoppers load up on household staples like potatoes.

Amidst the COVID-19 public panic, a nation-wide state of emergency called by President Trump has led many people across the country and across the state to engage in what is now being called “panic shopping.”

Reese and Ray’s IGA Manager Greg Favero says that IGA did not realize panic shoppers from out of town were coming to Hardin, but he did notice many unfamiliar faces in the store.

“It was interesting to see everyone's reaction, and how people wanted to prepare, so we were selling products as we had it,” Favero said.

“Panic shopping” is when consumers buy large quantities of items before, or after, a perceived disaster.

When customers are buying household items at an irrationally high rate, wiping out the shelves, it leaves many others with nothing.

The panic buying craze swept the nation in only two weeks as social media posts highlighted public behavior and showed many store shelves being cleaned out of toilet paper, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizers and soaps.

It did not take long for the panic buying craze hit Montana, appearing first in Kalispell, making its way to Billings, and spilling into Hardin.

Once many Billings stores were cleaned out of supplies, eyes then shifted to small town communities such as Hardin, with many Billings residents turning up at Reese and Ray’s IGA and cleaning out the shelves of household items and food.

“We are, as a company, doing everything we can to find sources for products and it is honestly a day-to-day experience, a day-today figuring out, and a day-to-day watching on what's going to happen next,” Favero said. “There is no script for this, there is no plan, you just don't know what is going to happen or how it is going to go.”

Favero said that two entire shipments have sold out in the last week, almost as soon as they were on the shelves, and a third is on it’s way but he does not know if this shipment will remain on the shelves very long.

In many reported cases on social media, barren shelves at Walmart in Billings led to many people who did not reach the stores in time, both furious and worried for themselves and their families.

Of the most common “panic” items being bought, toilet paper is ranked number one as the most bought household product.

In some instances where panic buyers stock up on items deemed essential. Household items such as pampers, baby formula, and perishable food critically needed by those who could not get to the stores in time before the panic shoppers swept in, are now being posted for sale on social media at dangerously high prices. The Associated Press reported that a man

The Associated Press reported that a man in Tennessee reportedly bought nearly 18,000 bottles of hand sanitizer, medical masks and cleaning wipes and posted the items for sale online at a ridiculously high markup on Amazon and eBay, before those sites shut down predatory selling.

When he was discovered and reported, his sale posts were taken down and banned off of both sites, leaving him with nearly 18,000 items and nowhere to sell them.

After a visit from the Tennessee attorney general’s office, the man then went and donated two-thirds of his stockpile to local churches.

However, these types people do not exist solely in other part of the country but are now also popping up here in the statem, and as close as Billings

A woman in Billings posted to social media that she bought nearly 15 cans of baby formula and is selling it at nearly $70 per can. She had also claimed she would be selling individual scoops of baby formula for $10 a scoop.

From a sales perspective, the panic buying has led to an incredible spike in revenue for many stores, and certainly for IGA, Favero says.

“It's certainly increased our sales. We’re seeing customer counts that are larger than normal, so obviously we have a lot more customers and made a lot more sales.”

However, the uncertainty surrounding the future of the coronavirus crisis does make Favero concerned about how IGA will be able to keep the shelves stocked for the public.

Favero says nearly every department has been affected.

“With the increased buying, we are hearing from our suppliers that stores are finding more and more challenges in getting products,” Favero said.

Favero speculates that with the challenges of many suppliers having a hard time putting produce on the shelves to meet public demand, many stores may see a period of time in which they don't have products due to excessive buying.

For the time being, Favero says that IGA will certainly be doing it’s absolute best to provide products that their customers need and to ensure the safety and health of the checkout and stocking staff, the future is still very uncertain.