Dear Grocery Friends,
When I’m doing my job properly, I try to imagine that we work for the same company, some fantastical institution called Si-H-E-B or Whole Comida or Safew-iete. We have certain goals in common of course, but I also know that running a grocery store is generally tough, constant work, and I hope to be useful whenever possible by doing things like working out the backstock of our tortilla chips, rotating our tortillas, or front facing our hot sauces. Maybe building an endcap or fluffing up a display that your crew put up at six o’clock in the morning.
Your job will always have unique challenges that I, as a vendor, don’t have to face. I don’t work overnight, and haven’t done a 12-hour shift in quite a while. I don’t experience the stress of store walks and I rarely encounter the impossible-to-please shoppers. I may never have to touch a pallet of water. And then there’s Inventory….
I think about these daily challenges and can only admire the massive effort that you and your team undertake every day to keep the shelves full, customers happy, and maintain a healthy business.
And yet what I’ve just written about simply describes the normal times in a grocery store. I realized this was all about to change as I made my rounds on Thursday, March 12th. Every store I visited that day had Sunday afternoon-level crowds on what is usually one of the slowest days of the week. It was the last time I was in stores in a professional capacity.
My wife and I went shopping the following week. I walked through the Gluten-Free set and fronted the remaining half dozen units of our chips. I saw the Grocery Lead taking a breather in Frozen. He’d already been putting in long shifts and has a two-month-old baby back home. I couldn’t help but notice the dark rings around his eyes and the far-off stare. We chatted for a minute or two about the sudden craziness and then he went back to shooting out-of-stocks.
Our checkout line extended into the paper products aisle, where everything was blown out. Thanks to the store team, we found pretty much everything we needed and the check out line moved relatively quickly. Your business was an important part of my livelihood before, but I could now fully appreciate how critical it is in my life. After all, my biological functions are directly dependent on the products you stock. It really is that simple.
Things have only gotten more intense since that shopping day. Many stores are now regulating customer entry. Product availability is still highly variable. I can only imagine the difficulty of social distancing as you do your work and the stress of not knowing what pathogens may be entering the store.
The Siete retail team took a pause last week to reassess our work in this new, not-normal normal. You guys haven’t had the same luxury and it’s sometimes felt odd to know that you’ve been out there in the trenches while I’ve been working from home. Part of our reasoning has been that we haven’t wanted to take up physical space in already-packed aisles. Ordering and deliveries have been disrupted and we’ve considered that there might not be product in-store to work out. But more generally, we’ve wanted to err on the side of caution and help keep everyone, employees and store partners, as safe and healthy as possible.
We also want you to know that, as in normal times, we continue to view all of this as a shared mission (or, as we say around the office, “Juntos es mejor”) and we really want to help throw backstock and keep the shelves looking good. We want to be around if you happen to have a free moment and just want to chat. It’s one of my favorite parts of the job!
I hope to be back out there as soon as possible, wearing black nitrile gloves and keeping six feet away from everyone. I can’t wait until we can shake hands again.
Brian, Siete Senior Merchandising Specialist