Derby Walmart among stores coping with supply chain crisis

Published: Nov. 5, 2021 at 6:18 PM EDT
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DERBY, Vt. (WCAX) - Get your holiday shopping done early this year -- that’s the message from local retailers as global supply chain issues continue to cause shortages. It comes as one of Vermont’s busiest big box stores is seeing that first hand.

Customers who shop at the Walmart in Derby say it’s an integral part of the Northeast Kingdom’s economy. But lately, they’ve been disappointed when they walk through the doors, some even checking ahead of time with neighbors and friends to see if the store is stocked. “We’re having to go shopping elsewhere because they don’t have much here,” said Ron Roy of West Charleston.

Take a quick lap around the aisles of the box store and you’ll see a lot of sparse shelves. From toilet paper and paper towels, to frozen foods and microwaveable meals, to kids toys and clothes, many of the products are missing. “Produce department -- you walk through there and everything’s empty,” Roy said.

Reporter Christina Guessferd: How much do people rely on this Walmart in the Northeast Kingdom?

Ron Roy: It’s huge. We begged to have this Walmart here for years and years and they finally came here.

Walmart representatives say a refrigeration equipment malfunction forced employees to preserve produce and frozen products in coolers. But customers like Roy sai the one-stop shop isn’t nearly as stocked lately as it was when it opened in 2016.

Local business owners say they suspect the current supply chain issues are to blame. “It’s kind of like a perfect storm that’s going on right now with not just Walmart, but with all retailers,” said Rep. Michael Marcotte, R-Coventry, who also owns the Jimmy Kwik gas station and convenience store just down the road. The chair of the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee says he’s also struggling to stock some products like soda, beer, and chips. “There are issues of getting packaging, so there’s a lot of packages we don’t have right now. They don’t have it, we can’t sell it.”

Vermont industry officials say the widespread workforce challenges are slowing down manufacturing and distributing processes statewide. “It’s not just the store itself, it’s not the workers in the store, it’s the entire system,” said Erin Sigrist with the Vermont Retail & Grocers Association. She says consumers may be alarmed by sights like the Walmart but there is no need to worry. “We need to keep in mind that there are several factors. We have an employee shortage, we have a change of season, we have shoppers looking for products for Thanksgiving.”

Sigrist says there’s no need for a mad rush to retailers because that will just put more pressure on the already struggling system.

Meanwhile, Walmart officials in Derby say the missing products should be back in stock by this weekend.

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