Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) began shutting off power to businesses and residents in California at 12 a.m. Wednesday, leaving several Raley's stores, and dozens of other grocers, in the dark to address the outages and their store operations.
At least 10 Raley's stores in cities across Northern California were without power Wednesday, Raley's spokesperson Chelsea Minor told Grocery Dive, but the company has continued to get updates and the outages are changing.
Nearly 800,000 PG&E customers in at least 34 counties in California will lose power during three phases of PG&E's voluntary Public Safety Power Shutoff this week. The utility company said the move is a proactive effort to alleviate the elevated fire risk in the state due to dry, windy conditions.
San Diego Gas & Electric has also reported that it may shut off power to more than 28,000 customers in anticipation of weather conditions that could spark fires.
For some, the outages could last several days. Minor said Raley's was expecting the power to be off at its affected stores for at least 24 hours, though the status is subject to change.
On Wednesday, the California Grocers Association (CGA), which represents more than 300 grocery retailers throughout the state, received updates from its members about the status of their operations.
"Any retailer that's had to have their power turned off obviously is impacted by it," Dave Heylen, vice president of communications for CGA, told Grocery Dive.
Member companies that have reached out to CGA reported efforts to save as much food as possible from the refrigerated and frozen sections, including some who are trying to source dry ice to increase the shelf-life of those items.
The majority of stores have some type of small generator that can run their electricity and point-of-sale systems, Heylen said. Several members, however, told him they are looking for generators to rent, but with such high demand from other businesses trying to do the same, it's been a challenge.
"Stores are trying to stay open because they can still sell all their dry goods, baby formula and everything else that's needed and not refrigerated," he said.
With information from its PG&E representatives, Raley's was able to plan ahead and supply some stores with full operating generators. Another five stores are equipped with emergency generators, which will limit their ability to supply refrigerated items. One store under the company's Nob Hill banner was expected to close completely due to the power outages, Minor said.
The locations that have emergency generators also received several refrigerated trucks to help limit the amount of lost product and reduce shrink.
"The way that we save that product is by a lot of labor, but to remove all of the items, put them in milk crates and ship them onto a truck that then remains at the store," Minor said.
As the power outages continue, Raley's goal is to stay open and continue to serve customers because there are plenty of needs, from batteries and water to chips and snack bars. Because customers have lost power as well, few need refrigerated items.
"You need all the essentials," Minor said.
Throughout the affected areas, grocery stores have seen an uptick in customers preparing for the power loss. The Associated Press reported a Dollar General in Paradise, California, ran out of ice chests as customers went to the store to buy flashlights, candles, gas cans, ice, batteries and canned foods. A store manager at Lucky's in San Jose, California, told the San Francisco Chronicle that shoppers were buying up dry ice, which lasts longer than regular ice.
For most grocers, the best course of action is to stay up-to-date because everything is changing rapidly.
"CGA is providing information, but we are encouraging our members to stay very connected to their electricity companies," Heylen said.