For many, Labor Day weekend means the unofficial end of summer. For business owners, the final weekend of picnics, outdoor grilling and barbeques means an uptick in sales.
“With the hot weather, we’re probably going to go through a lot of pop, water, Gatorade, hot dogs, hamburgers, buns, chips, just lots of outdoor stuff,” said Jamie Riesberg, assistant manager of Fareway in North Liberty.
Riesberg said customers usually begin shopping for the holiday weekend on Thursday and Friday. The store is not open on Sundays and will be closed Monday for the holiday.
The store brings in additional cases of food for customers to keep up with demand, he noted. Fareway also scheduled 33 percent more employees for the long weekend, though Riesberg would not cite a specific number.
“It’s a long weekend for people because a lot of them take Friday off,” said Dennis Dietrich, manager of Gary’s Foods, a family-owned business in Mount Vernon. “The stuff we’re stocking up on is the traditional grilling type stuff — bratwurst, steaks, hamburger, the buns, charcoal, ice, lots of ice, since it’s really hot, hot.
“It’s the last big picnic holiday of the summer and the last big grilling event.”
Dietrich said the store will sell a couple hundred pounds of bratwurst over the weekend and about 1,200 pounds of ground beef.
Shoppers begin coming in to the store for supplies Friday after school, Dietrich said, and continue until Monday morning. By Monday afternoon, most customers have got what they need and are out enjoying the holiday.
The store also schedules additional hours for employees over the holiday weekend. Extra sales help pay the bills, Dietrich said.
“Traditionally in the grocery business … two percent is net profit before taxes, and Uncle Sam takes a penny of that,” he said. “We live in a one percent margin, so volume helps pay the bills.”
West Des Moines-based Hy-Vee stores also are very busy during the holiday weekend, according to Ruth Comer, Hy-Vee assistant vice president for media relations.
“These are weekends that we plan for many months in advance in terms of knowing that we need to order in extra ice, extra soda, extra beer, meat for the grill, chips, all types of picnic food that people want to buy,” Comer said. “We place our orders for those things ahead of time. We know we’ll need extra staff on hand.”
With college students returning back to school, Hy-Vee brings on additional part-time help, Comer said. Full-time employees also work longer shifts, she added.
“We’re in the grocery business every day, so the types of products that we’re selling on the holiday weekend are the same things that we sell day in and day out — we just sell more of them,” she said.