Supermarkets are appealing to Britons to stop being selfish as shelves are emptied by customers panic-buying and stockpiling amidst rising coronavirus fears.
“We understand your concerns but buying more than is needed can sometimes mean that others will be left without.,” states an extraordinary open letter from the UK’s major grocery operators that urges people to shop responsibly and with consideration for others.
“There is enough for everyone if we all work together”, says the letter signed by Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Lidl, Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Iceland, M&S, Costcutter, Waitrose, Morrisons and Ocado.
Vulnerable left without as others stock-up
Retailers around the country have reported bare shelves caused by panic buying and stockpiling of hand sanitiser, toilet roll, dried pasta, thermometers, paracetamol and other items, despite repeated assurances about supplies and deliveries to replenish shelves.
Delivery hours for supermarkets have already been extended following meetings between retailers and the government last week, but shelves are still emptying leading to concerns about vulnerable people being left without essential items, as others stock-up.
“We know that many of you are worried about the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19),” the supermarkets’ letter says. “We want to let you know that we are doing everything we can so that you and your families have the food and essentials you need.
“We are working closely with government and our suppliers to keep food moving quickly through the system and making more deliveries to our stores to ensure our shelves are stocked. Those of us with online delivery and click-and-collect services are running them at full capacity.
“But we need your help too,” the letter continues, asking “everyone to be considerate in the way they shop. We understand your concerns but buying more than is needed can sometimes mean that others will be left without. There is enough for everyone if we all work together.”
‘New stock arriving regularly’
The BBC quotes an email from Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe to customers, explaining: “There are gaps on shelves because of increased demand, but we have new stock arriving regularly and we’re doing our best to keep shelves stocked.”
Coupe makes a plea to shoppers, asking: “Please think before you buy and only buy what you and your family need.”
Helen Dickinson, the chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said: “Retailers are working incredibly hard to keep shops well stocked and deliveries running as smoothly as possible. In the face of unprecedented demand as a result of coronavirus, food retailers have come together to ask their customers to support each other to make sure everyone can get access to the products they need.”
PM – ‘We have fantastic supply chains’
The letter comes a week after supermarkets started limiting sales with Tesco introducing signs at point-s of sale on March 8, stating: “To help give everyone access to essential items this product is limited to 5 per customer.”
Boris Johnson said last week: “I am confident we have fantastic supply chains. It is very important that everybody should behave responsibly and think about others.”
Meanwihile retailers have been warned by the Competition and Markets Authority not to “exploit” fears about the coronavirus outbreak by dramatically increasing the price of protective goods such as hand sanitisers and face masks.