For Jeff Miller, owner of North Dakota-based Miller’s Fresh Foods, describing recent supply chain experiences as challenging would be an understatement.
“Sales aren’t an issue,” he said. “Sales have been excellent. We can’t complain. But we’re battling supply issues…and that’s one of our biggest challenges is keeping our stores full.”
However, Miller is finding ways to get by and customers understand the challenges. “It just takes a little extra effort on our part just to see what the out of stocks are and to find proper substitutions for each item or each category,” he said. “Our staff works very hard at that, and we share the information in our company amongst our stores.
“When we find items available…we get them in place and it’s not necessarily the right items for that particular slot on our shelf, but we have like items that we’re able to place on our shelves and it’s amazing with the out of stocks – our customers are really accepting.”
Miller’s Fresh Foods has 10 locations across North Dakota in towns ranging from 600 to 3,000 people.
Along with supply chain, Miller is starting to notice inflation across the aisles. “[It’s] throughout the store, up and down the aisles and the perishable departments – there’s not one category that hasn’t been affected,” he said.
While his store operates in a more traditional format, some Miller’s Fresh Foods locations do offer home delivery services once a week. “It’s a service that I think is well appreciated. But it’s a service that, of course, it requires staffing and a vehicle. In some of our stores, we just don’t have enough staffing to accommodate that. So we do it where we can,” he said.
For the past two years, Miller said the company has been remodeling stores with new equipment and refreshed décor. The stores have replaced open cold cases with more energy efficient doors. The stores also are moving to more efficient systems.
“We’ve seen energy costs dropping, but also the rate is going up too. So we’re seeing a savings overall. If we wouldn’t have done something, it really would have cost us much more.”
Another change Miller noted is that his stores no longer run print advertising. They have switched to digital, also using social media for promotions. Each store manager is in charge of posting different items or events each day. “I think we do a good job at promoting that,” he added.
As for 2022, Miller is looking to continue keeping employees healthy, taking care of customers and supplying the freshest product and widest variety.
“We’re not going to stand still, we’re just going to keep pushing forward and serve our communities that we’re in,” he said.
For more information, visit millersfresh.com.