With Hurricane Harvey barreling towards the Texas coast, millions of area residents are heading to the store for essentials like beer and Pop-Tarts-if Walmart's data is any indicator, that is.
The retailer began using predictive technology in 2004, according to the New York Times, mining trillions of bytes' worth of sales data from recent hurricanes, to determine what customers most want to purchase leading up to a storm.
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"Strawberry Pop-Tarts increase in sales, like seven times their normal sales rate, ahead of a hurricane. And the pre-hurricane top-selling item was beer," Linda M. Dillman, former chief information officer for Walmart, told the Times.
We reached out to the company for more current information, and while director of national media relations Ragan Dickens couldn't confirm Pop-Tarts are flying off shelves this season, he said ready-to-eat foods, as well as bottled water, batteries, fuel containers, and bread, are among the most frequently purchased items pre-hurricane.
"Walmart has learned that Strawberry Pop-Tarts are one of the most purchased food items, especially after storms, as they require no heating, can be used at any meal, and last forever," economist Steve Horwitz, who studied Walmart's response to Hurricane Katrina, told ABC News in 2011.
Just prior to Hurricane Frances in 2004, when Walmart realized its customers' penchant for toaster pastries and beer, the company sent extra truckloads to stores in the hurricane's path. The move paid off in profit when the additional inventory sold quickly.
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