Morrison’s has become the first supermarket to reintroduce a limit on the number of items customers can buy over fears of a repeat of the stockpiling panic seen in stores at the start of the pandemic.
Bosses have introduced curbs on loo roll and hand gel with shortages already being reported in stores up and down the country as Britain braces itself for a second wave of coronavirus.
Shelves have been emptied following Boris Johnson’s address to the nation on Tuesday night, in which he outlined a new raft of restrictions which could last for up to six months.
As concerns have grown, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) urged customers to be considerate of others and ‘shop as you normally would’.
Some of the supermarket giants have insisted they are well stocked and will not need to cap how much of a certain product shoppers can purchase.
However, Morrison’s is taking steps to avoid the chaotic scenes earlier this year when shoppers stacked trolleys full of precious commodities in case leaving the house became difficult, depriving many others of essentials.
Supermarket shelves have rapidly emptied in recent days amid fears of a return of the stockpiling panic seen earlier in the pandemic
Shoppers have this week once again been stocking their trolleys with valuable commodities such as toilet roll
A shopper looks at the depleted pasta shelves in an Asda supermarket in Wembley, north London
Supermarkets are boosting security at their doors and have doubled the number of delivery slots amid fears Covid-19 panic buying could return
A spokesman told The Grocer: ‘We are introducing a limit on a small number of key products, such as toilet roll and disinfectant. Our stock levels of these products are good, but we want to ensure that they are available for everyone.’
Sainsbury’s introduced a purchasing cap on certain items this year but told MailOnline today no such restrictions were currently in place.
Similarly, a Waitrose spokeswoman said: ‘It’s not something we are doing at the moment. We are holding good levels in all key product areas and we have also looked at the items people bought early in lockdown and planned ahead.’
Meanwhile, Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis told Sky News earlier this week that the grocer has ‘very good supplies of food’.
He said: ‘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. And therefore we would just encourage customers to continue to buy as normal.’
Demand for online shopping surged in March as customers were told to stay at home, with grocers rapidly growing their online operations as a result.
The supermarkets have said the expansion has allowed them to cope with higher demand as restrictions tighten again.
Shares in online retailer Ocado have jumped over the past week due increasing demand, as industry analysts have reported high booking figures for online shopping slots.
Wholesale shop Costco has this week been inundated with customers with stores in Leeds, London and Manchester seeing a surge in visitors.
Many stores had to erect barriers to regulate the growing queues, and shoppers were seen leaving with overflowing trollies as they stocked up on supplies.
As customers flooded social media with pictures of empty aisles, one shopper declared: ‘It’s happening again.’
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said yesterday: ‘We urge consumers to be considerate of others and shop as they normally would.’
He played down the presence of panic-buying and paid tribute to the ‘excellent job’ of retailers to provide food during the pandemic.
Reassuring the public, he added: ‘Supply chains are stronger than ever before and we do not anticipate any issues in the availability of food or other goods under any future lockdown.’
But supermarkets are bolstering security at their doors and have doubled the number of delivery slots.
Meanwhile, Asda has announced 1,000 new safety marshals to help enforce the Government’s advice to wear and face mask and will give sanitised baskets and trolleys to customer as they enter the store.
On Monday, the Prime Minister also introduced a 10pm curfew for bars, pubs and restaurants.
The curfew will not affect supermarkets or convenience stores.
However, some analysts have suggested the move – and another potential decline in commuter numbers after people were told to work from home – could boost supermarket demand as eating out habits are impacted by the measures.
Clive Black and Darren Shirley at Shore Capital said the new guidance could result in a ‘step back’ in the recovery of food-to-go specialists, which would prove a ‘hammer-blow’ to the likes of Greggs and Pret A Manger.
They said ‘demand for grocery retail is likely to be boosted once again’ as more meals are eaten at home.
Tesco and Asda have been approached for comment on purchasing limits.