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Supermarkets Survive, Profit From COVID-19 Panic Buying

(AP Photo/John Locher)

A line of people waiting to buy supplies amid coronavirus fears snakes through a parking lot at a Costco, Saturday, March 14, 2020, in Las Vegas.

Special hours for seniors to shop are just one of the ways grocery stores in Las Vegas are adjusting during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Supermarkets are also restricting hours to give workers time to clean and restock. 

But on a broader scale, how will coronavirus effect supermarkets here?

David Livingston is the founder of DJL Trust/DJL Research, which does analysis and consulting for the grocery store industry.

He said his clients are reporting a jump in sales of between 50 and 80 percent because of the coronavirus. 

In addition to more sales, grocery stores are some of the only businesses that are hiring.

“Right now, with sales up and a chance to find fresh workers, this is an opportunity for the supermarkets,” he said.

One of the big concerns in the supermarket industry is the supply chain, Livingston said so far that is not a concern because there haven't been a large number of truck drivers getting sick.

"The only problem is on the supply side is with the hoarding," he said, "Down the road, you're probably going to see people with a basement full of toilet paper and stores won't be selling so much of it."

When the panic buying and hoarding are over, Livingston said there will be some changes in the industry.

“Obviously, they’re going to learn a lot of lessons on efficiency and this is going to carry on after the pandemic," he said, "I think the supermarkets are going to be set up pretty well after the pandemic because they’re going to know exactly what they need to do.”

He said there is going to be less waste and higher quality employees at most supermarkets.

Livingston also expects more people to stick with shopping online. He said now that many people have become accustomed to the convenience of shopping online, they'll do it more often.

He expects that what he calls "plain vanilla" stores in Southern Nevada will close as more supermarket chains merge. It was a trend that was in the works before the pandemic but he believes the outbreak just put it into high gear.

David Livingston, founder and trustee, DJL Trust/DJL Research 

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(Editor's note: Chris Sieroty no longer works for Nevada Public Radio)