Panic buying forces British supermarkets to impose limits

Britain’s big grocers, including Sainsbury’s, have struggled for over a week to keep shelves stocked. (Reuters)
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Updated 18 March 2020

Panic buying forces British supermarkets to impose limits

  • Aisle after aisle were left empty with just ice cream and chocolate Easter eggs remaining at many major stores
  • Huge queues snaked around some supermarkets on Wednesday

LONDON: Panic buying by British shoppers escalated on Wednesday with shelves stripped bare by alarmed customers hoarding for the coronavirus isolation, prompting Tesco and Sainsbury’s to restrict purchases.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has faced criticism for acting too slowly and too cautiously to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, said on Tuesday that there was no reason to stockpile and that food supplies were safe.
In supermarkets across the land, though, shoppers were spooked. Aisle after aisle were left empty with just ice cream and chocolate Easter eggs remaining at many major stores. Huge queues snaked around some supermarkets on Wednesday, Reuters reporters said.
“It’s getting worse,” said a source at one of Britain’s major supermarket groups.
Sainsbury’s is to restrict customer purchases to combat panic buying. Tesco is allowing shoppers to purchase just two packs of certain items such as dried pasta, toilet roll and long-life milk.
Britain’s big grocers, including market leader Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, and Morrisons, along with discounters Aldi and Lidl, have struggled for over a week to keep shelves stocked.
“We have enough food coming into the system, but are limiting sales so that it stays on shelves for longer and can be bought by a larger numbers of customers,” Sainsbury’s Chief Executive Mike Coupe said in a letter to customers.
Aldi on Monday became the first UK grocer to introduce rationing, limiting customers to buying four items of any one product during each visit.
Morrisons cautioned it was facing extraordinary times.
“We are currently facing unprecedented challenges and uncertainty dealing with COVID-19,” the company’s chairman Andrew Higginson, and its CEO David Potts said.
The supermarket industry says it is working closely with suppliers to keep food moving through the system and is making more deliveries to stores to get shelves re-stocked.
It says supplies are still coming in from Europe, despite lock-downs in Italy, Spain and France.
One executive said the government was only just starting to understand the enormity of the crisis for the industry.
“They’re in asking questions mode, they’re certainly not in telling us anything mode. They’re trying to understand what we’re seeing rather than telling us to do anything specific.”
The second source added: “Government are asking questions, listening and planning, but we’d appreciate a bit more help to get things moving.”
The source said the government could help by lifting restrictions on driver hours and relaxing Groceries Supply Code of Practice regulations which slow the industry down.
Reuters reported on Monday that supermarket groups are working on plans to streamline their operations by cutting cafes, counters and other services to enable a depleted workforce to maintain basic provisions.


German Rambo: Police in forest hunt for armed homeless man

Updated 13 July 2020

German Rambo: Police in forest hunt for armed homeless man

  • Holice hunting for a homeless man in combat gear and armed with a bow and arrow and other weapons

BERLIN: In scenes reminiscent of the film “Rambo,” police in Germany’s Black Forest are hunting for a homeless man in combat gear and armed with a bow and arrow and other weapons.
Several dozen officers and helicopters were deployed as the search entered its second day on Monday.
Police in Oppenau, in southwestern Germany, warned local residents to stay at home and not pick up any hitchhikers.
They released a photo of the suspect who has a bow and arrow, a knife and at least one gun and is known to the police for previous offenses, including illegal possession of firearms.
Police said they were informed on Sunday morning that a suspicious man was hanging around a hut in the forest.
When officers approached him they found that he was armed with a bow and arrow, a knife and a pistol.
He then “suddenly and completely unexpectedly” threatened them with the firearm, leaving them “no time to react to the dangerous situation,” police said late Sunday.
He asked the police to put down their weapons and ran away, “presumably” taking their arms with him.
About 100 police officers, including special forces and canine teams, have been dispatched to search for the man.