"We are working with our suppliers to get even more stock"
UK supermarkets have taken a number of measures as a result of the Coronavirus.
The deadly virus has led to shoppers panic buying certain items in case of a potential quarantine and self-isolation measures.
All major supermarkets released a joint statement addressing the need for calm and reassuring the public they are doing the best to meet demand.
It said: “We are working closely with the 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. We would ask 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.”
Their joint plea comes after a series of meetings with the government.
Supermarkets have now introduced new rules as they battle to keep shelves stocked and to ensure the safety of customers and staff.
Major supermarkets have all changed their opening hours and have put new rules in place.
Many have hours that are set aside for the elderly and vulnerable to shop, or for NHS staff.
Mike Coupe, Sainsbury’s CEO, said:
“An increasing number of you have told me that you’re not always able to get the items that you need when you need them.
“We are working with our suppliers to get even more stock of essential items and we are adding warehouse capacity on a daily basis.
“You will have seen that we put restrictions in place this week to ensure that more products are on the shelf for longer.
“From Monday 23rd March, we are consolidating our opening hours and all our supermarkets will be open from 8 am to 8 pm, Monday-Saturday, including those with an Argos store. Sunday opening, Sainsbury’s Local and petrol station opening times will stay the same.”
He continued: “This means we can focus our store colleagues’ time on keeping shelves stocked and serving our customers well during the times that most of you are already shopping.
“Last Thursday, we set aside an hour for elderly and vulnerable shoppers in our supermarkets. Many of you have told me how much you appreciated this and that you would like this to become a regular event.
“Some of you also said we should extend this to members of our hardworking NHS and Social Care workers. And we will be doing just that.”
“Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, all our supermarkets will dedicate 8 am – 9 am to serving elderly, disabled and vulnerable customers, as well as NHS and Social Care workers.
“They will just need to show us their pass or ID when they visit.
“Some of you fed back that you couldn’t find what you wanted during that hour, so we will try our best to have essential items on the shelf for these customers.
“We will be working to keep our shelves well-stocked and would encourage customers to arrive throughout the hour to prevent queues forming and to help everyone keep a safe distance.”
Sainsbury’s has also implemented purchasing restrictions to ensure that there are enough products to go around.
Customers can now buy a maximum of three of any grocery product and a maximum of two of the most popular items like toilet paper, soap and milk.
Asda has changed its opening times from 8 am to 8 pm and NHS staff get priority access between 8 am to 9 am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
The brand has also implemented restrictions. Customers now can buy up to three of any product across all food items, toiletries and cleaning products.
For Tesco, several stores are now operating at reduced hours. Some Extra stores and larger Metro stores have reduced their hours between 6 am and 10 pm so they can properly restock overnight.
Priority browsing will be offered to NHS workers one hour before shops open on some days.
Product restrictions have also been put in place on certain items like anti-bacterial wipes, dried pasta and toilet roll. Customers can now only buy two.
Zoe Evans, of Tesco’s UK Customer Engagement Centre, said:
“We’ll do our best to keep shelves stocked up but at times, we may have low or no availability of some items.
“Of course, where possible, we’ll pick a suitable substitute for you which you can choose to keep or ask your driver to take back.
“As there may be more customers than normal booking deliveries, you may find that there aren’t as many slots available, so it’s a good idea to try and book further ahead.
“Don’t forget, you can make amends to your order up until 11:45 pm on the day before your delivery.”
Iceland is helping the elderly by opening their supermarkets early. Each day, elderly shoppers can get their shopping done between 8 am and 9 am.
A daily slot has also been introduced for NHS workers, which will be during the final hour of trading.
Marks & Spencer have announced that they will also set times for more vulnerable customers to ensure that they are able to buy essential goods.
In a statement, they said:
“Supporting our customers and communities during this difficult time is our number one priority.”
“We want to make sure everyone has access to the items they need, so we are setting aside the first hour of trading on certain days for our older and vulnerable customers, and for our brilliant NHS and emergency workers.
“For older and vulnerable customers, this will start tomorrow on Friday 20th March, and going forward after that, on Mondays and Thursdays.
“For NHS and emergency workers, this will be Tuesdays and Fridays.”
Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, 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.”