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Market Profile Southeast

Hurricane Ian Delivered A Soaking, But Grocers Largely Spared

Carolina retailer
Lindsey Kueffner

One week after Hurricane Ian caused damage and flooding in coastal South Carolina and parts of North Carolina, grocery retailers have remained largely unaffected. The Carolinas Food Industry Council maintains a “seat at the table” in the emergency operation centers of both states, according to Lindsey Kueffner, its executive director. 

The council keeps its members updated throughout and after large storms such as Ian. The organization coordinates retail passes, providing storm updates by tracking curfews and sharing local restrictions as they are announced. Following a hurricane or other major disaster, the group takes an all-hands-on-deck approach to help members get back up and running, Kueffner said. 

“Retail members in North and South Carolina fared relatively well this time around. There were some issues in some instances, but they fared well altogether,” she explained.

Aside from a Category 1 hurricane, grocers in both states are dealing with many of the same issues affecting the industry at large. Supply chain woes and employment shortages have caused them to become “nimble and creative.” As far as the strained supply chain, Kueffner explained that retailers are finding different ways to mitigate it.

“A lot of them will source from alternate brands, they’ll narrow the item selection in some cases,” she said. “Some need to find a local supplier to source those items.”

Kueffner explained that in a recent FMI survey, 77 percent of grocers have raised wages in an effort to attract and maintain workers.

“But retailers obviously can’t rely on wages alone to retain employees,” she said. “So retailers are again getting creative with other benefits like shortening the introductory period so that employees can get on the company’s health insurance faster.”

In one instance, she heard of a company bringing on financial advisors to help employees plan  for the future. Grocers are still struggling to attract younger generations and are attempting to appeal to their principled ideals. 

“A lot of retailers are being more transparent and communicative with regards to their community involvement, their charitable giving and sustainability practices…[CFIC members] all give back to their communities, specifically to food banks,” Keuffner said. “There’s so many different charitable causes that they participate in.” 

The council is hoping to find ways to crack down on organized retail crime as it works with potential stakeholders to target cargo theft. Alongside retail crime, the organization is hoping to codify the federal Prep Act, which will benefit retailers with a pharmacy in both states. 

In North Carolina specifically, the CFIC is working to make ready-to-drink cocktails available in grocery stores. These cocktails are legal in South Carolina, but liquor sales are allowed only in state-run stores.

Conversely, the council is working within South Carolina to allow for curbside pickup of beer and wine, which is legal in North Carolina. Also, members in the Palmetto State are hoping that the Inform Act is passed. 

“This will ensure some baseline level of transparency for online marketplaces,” Kueffner explained. “Letting customers know when you go to an online marketplace, it’s not always super clear whether or not you’re buying from the retailer or if you’re buying from a third party. So it would give some level of transparency there for online marketplaces and it’s really a benefit for consumers.”

All these measures have some time before they reach legislative chambers. South Carolina’s legislative session runs from January until May, but North Carolina does not have a session limit. While lawmakers recently adjourned, they had been in session until “August or September,” according to Kueffner. 

Regardless of when these issues are raised, CFIC members remain hopeful. 

“We’re always advocating for the retail industry. We do that by first getting input from our members. They want these things passed,” Kueffner said. 

In addition to legal matters, the organization will round out the year with its annual golf tournament Oct. 27 in Pinehurst, North Carolina. In addition, its scholarship application process will open in late November or early December. CFIC held its annual convention back in July.

For more information, visit cficweb.org.

To read more market profiles from The Shelby Report, click here.

About the author

Jack R. Jordan

Content Creator

Jordan joined The Shelby Report in May 2022 after over a year in the newspaper industry. A native of Marietta, Georgia, he studied writing and communications at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. He spends too much time in the grocery store trying to find recipe ingredients, so he looks forward to covering the industry.

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