UK supermarkets have vowed to help the vulnerable and elderly who order their grocery shops online by offering them priority delivery slots. They will also limit consumers to only buying three of any single item.
Speaking to the BBC News, Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe stated that the firm is “trying to make sure everyone has access to the items they need,” adding that "we still have enough food for everyone - if we all just buy what we need for us and our families."
Sainsbury’s already had a two-item limit on its most popular goods, which includes soap and long-life milk, but from March 23 it said disabled customers and those over 70 will be given priority for online delivery slots. Iceland across the country and Lidl stores in Northern Ireland have also followed suit.
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The move extends beyond the online world too: on March 19, the first hour of shopping in store will be reserved for older and vulnerable people in Sainsbury’s 600 stores as a “one off”. This is to provide some much-needed comfort for those in need. However, the company will consider future dedicated shopping hours “in line with government guidance”.
More action is being taken
While some may see the move as “too little, too late”, supermarkets are taking action to stop customers from stockpiling key items, such as toilet roll, canned goods and dried pasta.
Aldi has joined Sainsbury’s in an attempt to curb the trend, limiting shoppers to four items on all products, while Morrisons is expanding its online delivery service to cope with the unprecedented demand.
Similarly, Boots and Tesco have now set limits on popular products such as tissues and hand sanitiser, which have been snapped up in their droves by concerned consumers.
Though empty shelves have become a regular sight in recent weeks, Boots chief executive Sebastian James believes the issue was not down to supply, but simply unseen demand. “No supply chain can survive a sudden, unexpected global ten-fold increase in demand,” he said.
Thankfully, other businesses are imposing new measures to help combat the coronavirus pandemic. Amazon has stopped sellers from sending “non-essentials” to its US and UK warehouses to make more space for baby products and groceries.
Pret a Manger will prevent customers from sitting in-store in shops, and Selfridges will temporarily close its four shops from 19:00 on Wednesday but continue trading online.
Sainsbury’s also confirmed that it will close its cafes as well as its meat, fish and pizza counters to enable more staff to work on keeping shelves “as well stocked as possible”.
Though some may argue the supermarket chains could have done more to preempt the impact of stockpiling earlier, it’s encouraging to see that those most in need are not being forgotten.
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Adam was formerly TRG's Hardware Editor. A law graduate with an exceptional track record in content creation and online engagement, Adam has penned scintillating copy for various technology sites and also established his very own award-nominated video games website. He’s previously worked at Nintendo of Europe as a Content Marketing Editor and once played Halo 5: Guardians for over 51 hours for charity. He is now an editor at The Shortcut.