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UK supermarkets call for calm as coronavirus fears trigger panic buying

UK supermarkets call for calm as coronavirus fears trigger panic buying

Shoppers face partially empty shelves at a London supermarket, as consumers worry about product shortages due to the coronavirus outbreak, stockpile on household products. (JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP)

LONDON: British supermarkets have called on consumers to be more considerate and reiterated they have adequate supplies, as the coronavirus saw shelves plundered and a surge in online orders.

The country's leading groceries retailers, including Tesco, Sainsbury's and Waitrose, penned a joint letter to customers, which ran in newspapers on Sunday and Monday (Mar 16) appealing for calm.

"We need your help," they wrote. "We would ask everyone to be considerate in the way they shop. There is enough for everyone if we all work together."

British stores have been inundated with shoppers for more than a week, with people panic buying toilet paper, and long-life items such as pasta and canned goods.

Shoppers grab toilet papers at a supermarket in London, following stockpiling of household products due to the coronavirus outbreak. JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP

READ: Britain set to isolate older people as COVID-19 deaths rise to 35

Online shopping, a popular choice in Britain, has been disrupted, with long waiting times for scheduled deliveries and some supermarkets' websites crashing due to demand.

Trolleys piled high for delivery are seen as shoppers queue at the checkout of a supermarket in London. JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP

Morrisons said on Monday it would introduce "temporary purchase limits" on certain high-demand products, while increasing store cleaning, food manufacturing and stock levels.

Waitrose will reinforce its staff by redirecting 500 employees from John Lewis department stores, which are part of the same parent group.

"It's not unusual for us to ask partners in head office to volunteer help in our shops where they can during busy trading times," the company said in a statement.

"It's the right thing to do to ensure we continue to deliver a good service for our customers."

READ: UK set to follow Europe in banning large events as virus toll jumps

Helen Dickinson, head of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said supermarkets were "working incredibly hard to keep shops well-stocked and deliveries running as smoothly as possible".

She noted this was happening "in the face of unprecedented demand as a result of coronavirus".

Sales figures for March are not yet available but all indications are that supermarkets will see record numbers.

The BRC said it had already observed a spike in late February retail sales, especially in food, as the health crisis began to have an impact across Europe.

Non-food stores were expected to sink even further into a crisis that was already affecting the sector even before the COVID-19 crisis began, as many Britons change their consumer behaviour.

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Source: AFP/de


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