We are happy to release the third Digital Magazine of 2021! This issue includes articles from the Association Chairman, the Association President; as well as Legislative Reports from Patrick McWhorter; the 2021 AGA Convention; the 2021 AGEF Fall Clay Shoot; the 2021 Food Industry Finest Luncheon; and many other industry stories from writers across the nation.
The Alabama Grocers Association recently held their 31st Annual Convention at the Sandestin Beach Resort in Destin, Florida. The Association brought members from all aspects of the grocery industry together to promote the growth and success of the food industry throughout the state of Alabama.
The Monday business forum included a Retail Survival Seminar by Norman Mayne, Dorothy Lane Markets, a Changes in Consumer Behavior Seminar with Michael Sansolo, a National Legislative Overview by Chris Jones from the National Grocers Association and an Alabama Regulatory Panel Discussion which included the Alabama Department of Human Resources, Alabama Department of Public Health and Alabama Alcohol Beverage Control Board.
A silent auction and raffle were held Monday night which raised more than $22,000 for the Alabama Grocers Education Foundation. This year the Alabama Grocers Education Foundation awarded 37 scholarships valued at more than $37,500, and to date has awarded more than 1.3 million dollars in total scholarships. Awards given on Monday night included the National Grocers Association Spirit of America Award given to Senator Jabo Waggoner, Alabama State Senate, District 16. Chris Jones from the National Grocers Association also awarded Jimmy Wright, Wright’s Market with the Clarence G. Adamy Great American Award, the association’s highest award for government relations. Creativity Band, an Atlanta Party Band, was the entertainment for Monday night.
The Tuesday Business Forum was held the following day and included a Diversity Seminar with Gianetta Jones from Coca-Cola Bottling Company UNITED, Inc., a Drone Delivery Seminar with Ed Fienga from Deuce Drone, and an E-Commerce Seminar with Pat Hughes from e-Growcery.
Tuesday afternoon also included an exhibit hall with more than 60 booths with vendors from all aspects of the grocery industry.
On Tuesday night, the Chairman’s Banquet was held with renowned comedian James Gregory as the celebrity entertainment. Several awards were given including the Spirit of Alabama Award, presented to Mr. Greg Gregerson, Gregerson’s Foods for a lifetime of work in the grocery industry. Representative Gil Isbell and Senator Jabo Waggoner presented their Joint Legislative Resolution for Supermarket Employee Day, honoring the hard work performed by employees in the grocery industry during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure communities had a safe place to get food and supplies. On Feb. 21 of this year, Gov. Kay Ivey declared Feb. 22 as Supermarket Employee Day to recognize the grocery industry’s tireless dedication to their communities. New Officers and Directors were also installed.
On February 22, the Alabama Grocers Association will join supermarkets and food manufacturers nationwide in celebrating the first-ever Supermarket Employee Day. The Food Industry Association (FMI) has proclaimed this new holiday to recognize employees at every level for the work they do feeding families and enriching lives.
With more than 40,000 individual stores selling food and grocery items in the U.S. alone, supermarkets are the backbones of our communities. Millions of supermarket employees come to work daily to keep shelves stocked and to provide communities with essential services that help them survive and thrive. The food retail industry in Alabama provides over 70,000 jobs and has a total economic impact on the state’s economy of over $12 billion.
“The grocery community has been helping the state of Alabama to stay strong during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ellie Taylor, president, Alabama Grocers Association. “When COVID-19 forced people to home shelter, we stayed open. And we have continued to adapt and serve our communities every day. There is no question that supermarket employees are heroes. We are thrilled to honor and celebrate them!”
Despite supply chain disruptions or work-force reductions, supermarket employees have demonstrated trojan efforts to keep communities going. Supermarket employees have personified compassion and courage when communities have most needed to be encouraged.
“Despite the constant changes in public health orders, supply chain disruptions and workforce challenges, our state’s grocers have worked tirelessly throughout the last year to remain open and continue to provide Alabamians with what they need,” Governor Ivey said. “This has been an incredible effort by these heroes in our communities, and they deserve our gratitude and recognition for all that they do.”
Senator Jabo Waggoner, Alabama State Senate, District 16 and Representative Gil Isbell, Alabama House of Representatives, District 28 also presented a Joint Resolution from the Alabama State Legislature declaring February 22, 2021 as Supermarket Employees Day in Alabama.
“On behalf of the Alabama Grocers Association, we invite all residents of the state of Alabama to stop in one of our stores on February 22 to congratulate and thank local supermarket heroes,” added Ellie Taylor. “Better yet, honor your favorite heroes in your social media and use the hashtags, #SupermarketEmployeeDay and #SupermarketHeroes.”
WHAT: The coronavirus has affected the lives of millions of state residents, and every grocery store retailer in Alabama is taking the necessary precautions to keep its associates and customers safe. At the same time, grocers are balancing an unimagined demand for food supplies driven by public fear.
WHO: As an industry, grocery retailers have been adjusting quickly to the new normal of intermittent out-of-stocks and sporadic customer surges; despite enormous logistical challenges, our state’s grocery community has worked around the clock to supply food to Alabama families while at the same time implementing new policies of social distancing and limiting customer density in our stores.
HOW: Alabama Grocers are taking essential steps in working to flatten the COVID-19 curve in each of the communities we serve. These steps start at our front doors and end at the point of checkout and customers leaving our stores.
Below is a sampling of the precautions Alabama grocery retailers have put in place:
Managers along with all store associates are being trained on social distancing techniques and general best health practices.
These communications have become part of daily management routines.
Stores are adhering to national grocery industry COVID-19 guidelines that have been approved by the CDC.
This guidance also includes steps for grocery retailers if store personnel become infected or if a known customer is infected with COVID-19.
Many retailers are providing special hours for older customers and those with weakened immune systems.
Grocers have an infrastructure to provide online fulfillment either at the store level or through a third-party provider, such as Shipt or Instacart. Stores are increasing those capabilities across the state’s entire supply chain, and this is helping reduce the number of customers coming into our stores.
Alabama Grocers have partnered with the Alabama EMA to provide a list of stores that provide these services to distribute to consumers and are encouraging Alabama consumers to minimize their exposure and utilize these services where available.
Grocery stores have closed all in-store cafes and seating areas. These areas are closed in order to prevent customers from gathering and sitting closely to one another.
Many stores are installing clear plastic guards at registers. Because the register area does not allow for the cashier and customer to maintain six feet apart per CDC guidelines, plexiglass guards are being added for additional protection in one the of the most vulnerable areas of the store.
Whenever possible, we are opening only every other register lane to create further distancing between customers at checkout instead of opening lanes right next to each other.
Signage is being placed in stores that reminds customers to stand at least 6 feet apart from others, plus other guidelines from the CDC. Signage is being placed at registers, front doors, deli, pharmacy and other places throughout the store.
Many retailers are now providing tape on the floors at each register so customers understand the 6-foot distance they should keep from others. The length of two standing shopping carts creates a natural spacing for social distancing.
Many stores are requiring those with reusable bags to bag their own groceries to prevent cross contamination. We are reminding customers to wash reusable bags after each use and to store bags in a clean, cool and dry location.
Store associates are wiping down and disinfecting shopping cart handles as often as needed throughout the day.
IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Grocery retailers are working tirelessly with current suppliers to ensure consumer demands are met at an unusually high rate. In addition, they have been creative at sourcing additional product from non-traditional suppliers to ensure the shelves are stocked as quickly as possible. It is important to note that the grocery retail industry is a very low profit margin and highly competitive business. Consumers can assist us in keeping prices as low as possible for Alabamians by not stockpiling products and utilizing normal shopping habits.