Keeping track of items in short supply at local grocery stores

Going to the store can feel like a gamble these days, both with the odds on whether certain items will stocked and whether fellow shoppers will keep their distance and follow directions in busy stores.

For rural residents who rely on Fort St. John as their main shopping centre, it can be frustrating to drive all the way into town just to find out there is no paper towel or flour at the store.

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Though some stores are seeing their toilet paper stocks return to normal, others aren’t, and new food items are suddenly in high demand weekly and can be hard to find.

Most stores receive toilet paper shipments daily, but are limiting purchases to one or two per customer.

“Last night was the first night we didn’t run out of toilet paper by the end of the day,” said Save-On-Foods Manager Paul Hartman on Tuesday.

Paper towel is in daily demand now as well, and often flies off the shelves as soon as it’s stocked.

For the most part, actual food items are available and store supplies haven’t been impacted, especially in the produce and meat sections.

However, flour and yeast, and other baking ingredients are in short supply, as baking and cooking has become a popular activity with so many people stuck at home.

“Yeast really took a big hit. We are out of yeast and flour daily, and are limiting customers to one item each,” said Safeway Second Assistant Zack Bidulka.

As for cleaning products, soaps and sanitizers remain in high demand and short supply.

“We still have a lot of bar soap, and I’d encouraging people to start investing in that,” Bidulka said.

Fortunately, each grocery store in town is receiving daily shipments, though usually with less product than managers ordered.

“It all depends on how the warehouse is doing. We’re noticing a 60 to 70% fill-rate,” Bidulka said.

“Some items might not come in the next day but show up on a later shipment,” said Hartman.  

Aside from the items on the shelves, the shopping experience has changed dramatically for the time being. Arrows can be found in most stores, with shoppers and employees being asked to follow the directions and only walk one way down an aisle. There are marks on the ground in front of aisles where customers can stand in line so that they are maintaining a safe distance from each other. Most stores are trying to wash carts and baskets as often as they can as well.

"It's a community thing. Our employees are doing it, most customers doing it, and we all have to work together," Bidulka said on following the directions of guidelines in his store. 

Email reporter Dillon Giancola at

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