Be considerate and stop panic buying, supermarkets tell customers

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Empty shelves are seen on the Pasta aisle inside a Tesco supermarket in Manchester, Britain, March 9, 2020. REUTERS/Phil Noble/File Photo

Britain’s food retailers appealed to shoppers on Sunday to stop panic buying during the coronavirus outbreak, saying purchasing more than they need would mean others will be left without.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents supermarket groups including market leader Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons, said retailers have come together to write to their customers, calling on them 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,” the letter reads.

Social media has been awash over the last week with pictures of empty shelves in Britain’s major supermarkets, with items like dried pasta, toilet rolls and canned food particularly sought after.

Trading in UK supermarkets has been intense, with some shop bosses saying it can only be compared to the pre-Christmas rush.

A long line of shoppers queue to buy groceries at a supermarket in Chingford, London, Britain, March 9, 2020, as panic buying arises amid heightening coronavirus fears, in photo obtained from social media. Ashraf Karim Eddin/via REUTERS

Anecdotal evidence suggested activity has stepped-up further since Thursday when Prime Minister Boris Johnson said those showing even mild symptoms of having the virus should self-isolate for at least seven days.

As of Sunday 9am, 35 people had died after testing positive for COVID-19 in Britain, health authorities said.

The letter says food retailers are working closely with government and suppliers to keep food moving quickly through the system and making more deliveries to stores to ensure shelves are stocked.

It also says retailers with online delivery and click-and-collect services are running at full capacity.

Tesco chairman John Allan said on Thursday it was unlikely the retailer, which has a 27.2 percent UK grocery market share, would experience anything more than “very short term, temporary” shortages of certain products.