British Columbia

Grocery stores struggling to keep up as shoppers clear shelves but say there's no lack of supply

Grocery stores are struggling to keep up their stock of goods as shoppers clear shelves of food in supplies in anticipation of having to self-isolate to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Despite the run on stock, stores say supply chain is strong and goods are being replenished

Famous Foods has been getting a week's worth of business in one to two days, making it difficult to keep product on shelves. (Jesse Johnston/CBC News)

Grocery stores are struggling to keep up their stock of goods as shoppers clear shelves of food in supplies in anticipation of having to self-isolate to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Cam Bruce, one of the owners of Famous Foods in East Vancouver, says the store got busy three weeks ago.

"It just went through the roof last Thursday," he said. "We've had five days of just ridiculous traffic."

Cam Bruce at Famous Foods says he's not worried about running out of stock, but that it's been difficult to restock shelves fast enough to meet demand. (Jesse Johnston/CBC News)

Bruce says shelves have been regularly cleaned out faster than they can be restocked and staff have had to pick up extra hours.

"We need that extra time to try and get the shelves stocked up. We literally can't keep up"

But he says the empty shelves are due to the huge demand on suppliers right now but there's no lack of supply.

"They're overwhelmed because we're ordering three, four times what we're used to," he said. "It's just a matter of physically, logistically getting it to us and us getting it to the floor."

Shoppers stock up at Costco in Port Coquitlam after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a financial stimulus package and recommended no non-essential travel. (Curt Petrovich/CBC)

The grocer says Tuesday was the calmest the store has been in three weeks.

Watch Famous Foods owner Cam Bruce explain why it's been a struggle to keep shelves stocked.

The struggle to stock shelves

2 years ago
Duration 0:46
Famous Foods owner Cam Bruce explains why it's been a struggle to keep shelves stocked over the last week.

Finance minister warns against hoarding

B.C.'s finance minister warned against hoarding in a Tuesday morning news conference. 

"There isn't any need to overstock your own supplies. Doing so will put at risk seniors, single parents, and others who need those necessities. Shop well, plan ahead, but please don't go overboard at other people's expenses," said Carole James. 

Shoppers at Granville Island in Vancouver, British Columbia on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The minister added that there is a healthy supply chain coming into British Columbia and that the government has been assured that there is enough stock for everyone.

City of Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West is going a step further and is advising that no more than 50 people should be gathered in an area inside a business in which they are unable to maintain social distancing of one to two metres.

For larger stores like Costco, that may mean while there are more than 50 people inside the store, they are not in the same area at once.

He says many retailers have already begun to restrict the number of people inside their stores to help with social distancing.

West says if stores don't comply, however, he's ready to declare a local state of emergency, which would allow the municipality's Bylaw Services and Fire Department to impose occupancy restrictions on any business.

Stores limiting hours for seniors

Some stores at the Granville Island Market are implementing measures to make their locations safer for vulnerable seniors.

"We don't want a whole bunch of younger people coming in at the same time as the seniors," said Adam Larbi who runs The Grainry. "We'd like just the seniors to come in from 9 to 10 a.m." 

Adam Larbi says The Grainry at Granville Island Market has started scooping all goods for customers as an increased health precaution. (Jesse Johnston/CBC News)

Like Bruce at Famous Foods, Larbi says rumours about lack of stock aren't true.

"We've overstocked everything in preparation," he said. "There's rumors coming around that Granville Island might be closed. It isn't."

Meanwhile, Bruce says employees have been more than happy to step up and take on the extra work.

"It's unusual times. No one's ever been through this. We're all just kind of feeling it day by day."

He says butchers have been coming in to work graveyard shifts and they're trying to bring in extra help to alleviate the burden on staff.

Watch Grainry owner Adam Larbi illustrate some of the health and safety measures he has implemented.

Granville Island Grainry health measures

2 years ago
Duration 0:33
Adam Larbi, who works at the Grainry on Granville Island, explains some of the health and safety measures he's put in place.


  • An earlier version of this story stated Port Coquitlam's mayor had imposed a store limit of 50 people. In fact, the limit is recommended only for businesses that can't maintain social distancing of one to two metres.
    Mar 18, 2020 1:58 PM PT
  • An earlier version of this story said that a local state of emergency would give the municipality the power to station firefighters outside stores to control the flow of people. In fact, it would allow the municipality’s bylaw services and the fire department to impose occupancy restrictions on any business.
    Mar 18, 2020 2:00 PM PT


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