Seafood retailers increase online orders as coronavirus restrictions expand

Published on
March 17, 2020

Crowds have thinned at Seattle’s famed Pike Place Fish Market, as fears of the spread of coronavirus are keeping more and more consumers home.

The normal scrum of phone-wielding tourists surrounding the typically boisterous fish market was practically absent over the weekend, but Anders Miller, one of the market’s four co-owners, said the drop in foot traffic has coincided with a spike in online orders.

“We’re definitely shipping a lot. People are at home and we’re getting stuff out. It’s kind of business as usual. There’s clearly less foot traffic, tourism and stuff is down, but besides that we’re doing the same thing,” Miller said.

The market started a special shipping deal – USD 20.00 (EUR 17.80), with no weight limit, to most of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho – that has made it more affordable for local consumers to get seafood delivered to their doorsteps.

Meanwhile, online fish monger Wild Alaskan Company also saw a drastic uptick in its membership sales. According to Wild Alaskan founder Arron Kallenberg, the company had record-breaking membership additions over the weekend. Sunday’s (15 March) new members were nearly 100 percent more than their largest day prior to the outbreak.

“Sales are slowing in traditional retail channels, so the online retailers are in an excellent position to redirect inventory, and [do] it with a lot less social interaction,” Kallenberg said.

Both Kallenberg and Miller expressed that they are looking to backfill the limited access some consumers might be experiencing, and that their prices have remained essentially unchanged.

"We have not changed our prices, nor do we have any intention to do so as a result of this tragedy. We want to be part of the solution. We believe our core value proposition is good in good times and even more important in uncertain times like these,” Kallenberg said.

On Pike Place Fish Market’s website, wild king salmon fillets were listed at USD 39.99 (EUR 35.76) per pound, with wild frozen-at-sea coho selling for USD 25.99 (EUR 23.24) per pound, and fresh Columbia River steelhead gong for USD 19.98 (EUR 17.86). Cooked Dungeness crabmeat and Alaskan king crab claws and legs were both going for USD 49.99 (EUR 44.71) per pound.

And, paradoxically, the disruption seems to be increasing availability to seafood, according to Miller.

“I’d say if anything there’s more supply, because of all the restaurants that are struggling. If the restaurants aren’t buying fish, all the sudden there’s more fish available,” Miller said.

Late Sunday, 15 March, Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced the temporary closure of bars and restaurants, but many restaurants had already shut their doors, including establishments run by Tom Douglas and Renee Erickson – two of Seattle’s most recognizable chefs and champions of local seafood.

Kallenberg said Wild Alaskan’s supply is robust as well, and it should only get stronger with the likelihood that seafood that is normally exported will continue to stack up in domestic freezers.  

“We’re a full U.S. supply chain. All of our raw material and secondary processing is here. We’re not reliant on the international supply chain, so kind of oddly, we might be benefitting from that surplus,” he said.

Kallenberg, who grew up in an Alaskan fishing family, added that the general uncertainty underscores one of Wild Alaskan’s core philosophies.

“Food security has always been a major tenet of our business. In Alaska, everyone has their catch for the year in the freezer and they eat it year-round. That’s always been part of our philosophy; food security for the modern consumer. They don’t go hunting or fishing, but we can essentially emulate that for them,” Kallenberg said.

Photo courtesy of Ng Wei Keong/Shutterstock

Contributing Editor reporting from Seattle, USA

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