HOUSTON – We know supermarkets are working around the clock to keep up with the demand from customers. H-E-B President Scott McClelland sat down with KPRC 2’s Dominique Sachse Friday to talk about how the store is making changes for both employees and customers. Here’s some of what we learned and what you can expect in the future.
They won’t run out
“One of the things we are seeing, there is huge demand and we are seeing customer count like we have never seen before for an extended period like we’ve never seen before,” said McClelland. “Every day we have food. Like today we shipped 1600 trailers which is an all-time high. These are items we are getting vary every single day. So today we may get a lot of salmon and beef and the next day we may get poultry. This is what I know — we have food but we may not have the exact item you want today.”
Customers are going for the same items
“We open the doors at 8 o’clock and you can see people go to three distinct areas in the store,” McClelland explains. “They run to paper because there is a perceived shortage of toilet paper. (Secondly), they go to the meat case to load up on protein and that really shifted this week when the announcements came through that restaurants were closing. The third area will be dairy where they are looking for milk and eggs. Eggs are a cheap source of protein, so milk and eggs would be the third area.”
Item options in stores might change
“One of the things is we are looking to simplify our business. H-E-B is known for all of the assortment we carry. For the next four to eight weeks, you’ll see we are carrying less assortment. We will bring items in on straight pallets. So instead of carrying 40 kinds of bacon, we will probably carry two,” said McClelland. “We think people will say ‘Hey I’m happy to buy bacon.’ It makes it easier for people who are doing the stocking — like ‘I have one bacon I’m going to put it in.’ Makes it much more efficient to move through our supply chain.”
“I just walked through the yogurt section. We have yogurt, we have blueberry yogurt, but we might not have the blueberry yogurt in the brand you are used to buying.”
New cleanliness protocols
“We’ve taken this very seriously. We have what we call the COVID action manager in the store, (who) manages sanitation and then social distancing. So, when we open the store we pulse customers in, 20 or 30 at a time, so we don’t have people bunch up. At our checkouts, we have decals on the floor to separate customers, and we’ve also put up a screen to separate the cashiers from the customers to provide for some safety there. We have partners that go through and sanitize all the surfaces areas all day long,” said McClelland. “So, we are really taking a lot of precautions to make sure our customers stay safe and especially our partners because if they can’t show up to work, we are going to have a real problem.”
H-E-B is making a special arrangement for senior shoppers
“H-E-B is known for having stores that are pretty busy. Our concern, if you have the elderly come into the store and they are most susceptible to catching the virus, we weren’t sure that this was a good idea. So our partner company, Favor — a company that we own, which is home delivery — we’ve set them up for the elderly either to order on the app or you can call a 1-800 number and order your (groceries) via an operator and we will ship it to your home with no fee (for 25 items or less). We think that’s a better way than to asking the elderly to come into the store and put themselves in harm’s way.”
H-E-B is hiring!
“In two days, we’ve had 38,000 applications come in. What we’ve seen happen in the two weeks has been devastating to the Houston economy and Texas economy. We are hiring people really as quick as we can, especially in the warehouse. We are especially hiring temporary workers in our curbside locations. We are actually expanding our capacity because the demand is there. People don’t want to go to our stores and we are hoping we can accommodate them there.”
The HEB hiring page has details about open jobs and information on how to apply.
Message from McClelland to the people of Houston
“Unlike a hurricane, this will not last for four days. It’s gonna last like four weeks. We just need to have patience, everybody. It’s hard. If you are like me, you tend to be impatient, but we are going to get through this. We are going to get through it. I think at a time like this, you really see the best of Houston. We saw it in the hurricane, where we all draw together, and we look out for one another, and that’s what we will have to do here.”