Supermarket bosses have urged shoppers not to start panic buying, while Asda is bringing in 1,000 safety marshals, as the industry braces for a potential change in shopping habits ahead of new lockdown restrictions.
Tesco boss Dave Lewis said stockpiling was “unnecessary” as there was no disruption to product supply chains as a result of new government measures to tackle rising Covid-19 infection.
Giles Hurley, the boss of discounter chain Aldi in the UK, wrote to customers saying: “There is no need to buy more than you usually would. I would like to reassure you that our stores remain fully stocked and ask that you continue to shop considerately.
“We have remained open for our customers throughout the pandemic and will continue to have daily deliveries, often multiple times a day, across all of our products.”
Asda said it would be stationing safety marshals at store entrances where they would provide ready-sanitised baskets and trolleys to shoppers and remind them of government guidelines to wear a face covering and maintain social distancing while they shop. Those who turn up without a mask will be offered a pack of disposables that they can pay for with their shop.
Lewis told Sky News: “The message would be one of reassurance. I think the UK saw how well the food industry managed last time, so there’s very good supplies of food.”
Lewis was referring to the speed with which supermarkets restocked after a surge in sales of tinned goods, toilet roll and dried pasta in March which stripped shelves in many supermarkets.
“We just don’t want to see a return to unnecessary panic buying because that creates a tension in the supply chain that’s not necessary.”
Hurley and Lewis have spoken out after reports that shoppers have begun to pick up extra goods after the prime minister warned of a potential tougher lockdown on households if new restrictions, including early pub closures, failed to bring the virus under control.
While supermarkets say there are no signs of panic buying as yet, sales of toilet rolls soared by 23% over the past week, according to one supplier to major supermarkets, while shoppers have also been picking up extra tinned goods, pasta and pain relief tablets since the weekend.
Back in March, supermarkets were forced to take drastic action, including rationing products such as pasta, toilet roll and flour, after the arrival of coronavirus in Britain led to a wave of stockpiling.
With the industry eager to avoid a repeat this autumn, the British Retail Consortium has urged shoppers not to change their buying habits.
Asda’s new marshals come after Morrisons reinstated marshals on the doors of its 494 supermarkets, after a break of several months, to better monitor shopper numbers and remind those entering to wear face coverings.
Anthony Hemmerdinger, chief operating officer at Asda, said: “We know that safety remains a key priority for our customers and we will continue to do all we can to keep them and our colleagues safe in-store, as we have since the start of the pandemic.”