Supermarkets expect big sales of hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad ingredients… (Glenn Koenig, Los Angeles…)
Ducking into an Omaha Steaks store on Pico Boulevard in West Los Angeles, Laura Herrarte knew exactly what she needed for this week's Fourth of July celebration.
"Hamburgers for the grandkids," Herrarte said. But then came the tough part. For nearly 30 minutes she sat at a display table as a store associate brought out different cuts of meat. She checked out the hamburger patties, inspected the fat content of the filet mignon and eyed the apple tartlets.
Her 16 grandchildren, their parents and a few neighbors will be joining Herrarte for a potluck in Sylmar on the Fourth of July, which this year falls on a Wednesday.
"It's the first time we're all getting together for this," Herrarte said last week. "No one is leaving town because we all have to work on Thursday."
She hustled out of the store holding bags containing her purchases worth about $200 and a box of free chicken breasts she got with her coupon.
Herrarte and her family will be among more than 160 million Americans who are expected to host or attend barbecues or picnics this year. The National Retail Federation estimate is based on in its 2012 Fourth of July survey.
With the holiday smack in the middle of the workweek, it will be a stay-at-home celebration for some and a road trip for others. Nightmarish traffic may await motorists, with almost 5 million Californians expected to hit the road.
The Automobile Club of Southern California predicts that 3 million people will travel for the holiday in Southern California alone, just short of the record 3.04 million vacationers in 2003.
Meanwhile, across the Southland, shoppers this week are picking up all the fixings for picnics, stocking up on fireworks and buying new towels and swimsuits for a day at the beach. Temperatures are predicted to reach the high 70s, which may mean big traffic in bags of ice and coolers.
"We're expecting a very favorable week because of the warm weather," said Gil Cassagne, chief executive of Reddy Ice, which sells 3.2 billion pounds of ice annually nationwide.
Supermarkets anticipate big sales of hot dogs, hamburgers, the makings of potato salad and, of course, watermelons. Home store and garden shop spokesmen said they expected sales of patio furniture and grills to climb.
"It might not be the best time of the week to get away. It's a great opportunity for people to stay home and enjoy their day off," said Sarah Fishburne, director of trend and design for Home Depot Inc. "This might be the time to buy patio furniture."
More people are choosing large dining sets where guests can sit together rather than individual deep chairs and small cocktail tables, she said. "If you're going to grill out, you're probably going to want to sit down and savor it."
Omaha Steaks in West L.A. said its foot traffic picks up around the holiday weekend. "Franks and burgers are usually popular for the holiday, so we expect it to be a little bit busier around that time," said Albert Wong, the store's manager.
Next door, a steady stream of shoppers flowed through the Barbeques Galore store.
Browsing through grilling cookbooks and accessories, Jay Grossman said he was going to relax by the pool and prepare his grand barbecue on one of his many grills.
"I just bought that gas grill for Memorial Day," the 57-year-old Alaska Airlines employee said, pointing to a Weber stainless-steel grill. "But I still have my charcoal grill, and we might just use that one too."
Meanwhile, in Carson, Yolanda Acosta pushed aside a bushel of U.S. flags to grab armfuls of corn at the Albertsons supermarket on Sepulveda Boulevard. With four ears for $1, Acosta figured corn would be perfect for her Fourth of July celebration.
"It's a big thing that it lands on a Wednesday, so we decided to have a block party," the 59-year-old grandmother said.
She and her neighbors, "who were all going to stay home anyway," are planning to rent an inflatable jumping castle and a water slide and bring their favorite dishes to a potluck.
Some people, such as Ruby Weaver, are leaving the house but aren't going far.
"I always go to my sister's house in Dominguez Hills for her cookout," the 65-year-old Carson resident said. "She usually has a bartender and someone in charge of serving the food."
The only thing missing is that spark that says it's the Fourth of July, Weaver said. Fireworks are illegal in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. "So I'm driving back to my daughter's house here in Carson. The kids go crazy with their firecrackers."