A great many Okinawa-based personnel took no chances with supplies in the run-up to Typhoon Saomai, flocking to commissaries at Kadena and Camp Foster on Tuesday to stock their home shelves.
Although store directors at both commissaries reported brisk sales, absent were the classic lengthy lines of patrons snaking around the stores, as have preceded storms in years past.
“We had some heavy customer activity, but we kept the lines down,” said Foster commissary director Ron McMasters, who employed extra cashiers during the crunch. “You do get lines during storms, but if you keep all the registers open ... we’re proud of the fact that we keep the lines down. Waiting time was no more than 10 to 15 minutes, tops.”
Customers could be seen browsing the Foster store’s “Typhoon Center,” a series of shelves near the checkout lines offering everything from water bottles to medical supplies to flashlight batteries. “It’s a one-stop shop for all the necessities, which we keep open throughout the season,” McMasters said.
One item unquestionably led the way in sales, flying off the shelves seemingly faster than store workers could restock it. “We sold a lot of water,” McMasters said.
While the Foster store reported a 15 percent sales spike, Kadena’s commissary fielded “just a steady flow” of customers, said store director Al Zimmer. “Absolutely no long lines. We were prepared for it, we had plenty of cashiers on hand,” he said
If anything, Monday saw more shoppers at each commissary than Tuesday — unusual for most weeks. “Monday is normally our slowest day,” McMasters said.
Said Zimmer: “It was a busy Monday afternoon but not crazy.”
Both store managers credited the Defense Commissary Agency’s “What’s In Your Closet?” program with luring shoppers to buy needed supplies early. Zimmer said the program is designed to get people thinking about what they need well before a disaster hits.
“People are more attuned to it, word has been filtered down to the commands, and [people] have gotten on the bandwagon and stocked up on things recommended by the program,” Zimmer said. “It’s gotten people thinking, ‘Why wait until the last minute? Get the basic necessities now.’ ”