Thursday, May 28, 2020

Rural grocers snag, try to keep, new customers in pandemic

A grocery in West Point, Neb., pop. 3,400, between Omaha and Norfolk (Rural Health Information Hub photo)
"Before the days of quarantine and self-isolation, many people left their small communities to purchase their groceries. Consumers may not have known what their rural grocery offers, and may not have been getting as much bang for their buck. Instead, they were considering convenience, product availability, competitive pricing, or additional services," Liz Daehnke reports for the Center for Rural Affairs.

That often meant independent rural grocery stores lost business to larger chains, but "during the onslaught of new restrictions and regulations, people started panic buying, resulting in many stores often being unable to keep products on their shelves," Daehnke reports. That led many rural residents to rediscover local, independent groceries, giving them an unexpected economic lift.

Many of them are trying to keep their new customers by offering flexibility and more personal service. "While we have all done our best to stay healthy and safe during the coronavirus pandemic, rural communities have risen above the challenges forced upon them during this unprecedented time and shown what true fortitude and grit look like—coming together to make sure neighbors, friends and family are safe, well-fed, and cared for," Daehnke writes.

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