From special hours for older people to not panicking over empty shelves.
7 min read
The opinions expressed by collaborators are personal.
Restaurants, bars, pubs, beauty salons, museums, gyms, theaters and cinemas around the world are closing – in some cases indefinitely – to stop or prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Fortunately for everyone, supermarkets are still open.
But supermarkets in the UK, Europe, USA And Australia is nonetheless making changes to its operations to meet rising demand and keep its employees safe.
Operating more than 3,400 stores across the UK, the Tesco supermarket chain, as just one example, announced “changes to simplify what we do, create the most useful shopping experience we can, and support our fellow workers.”
For people who are used to stopping by the store any day, any time, and almost always finding what we want on the shelves, these changes can come as a surprise – and another source of anxiety during the pandemic.
But supermarkets want you to know: There is absolutely no need to panic. There is plenty of food and supplies for everyone, and these changes will ensure that they remain available for the foreseeable future.
Here are 5 things that supermarkets want you to know right now:
1. Don't panic if you see empty shelves
Empty shelves do not mean there is a shortage of food and supplies. They simply mean that stores and supply chains need to catch up with rising demand.
“Our supply chain is experiencing a truly unprecedented event with this crisis. We have never seen levels like this in the United States. And that is really impacting supply chains,” said Greg Ferrara, president of the National Association of Retail Stores. of United States Groceries .
“So when you walk into a store, if you see empty shelves, it's taking us a while to get the product flowing through the supply chain back to the stores. But it's coming. It's coming through our warehouses. It's reaching stores. There is a lot of supply in the supply chain, “he explained.
“We just need time to catch up.”
Some supermarket chains are reducing the product range in order to focus on the essentials.
“We need to make food manufacturing as efficient as possible – there is no point in stopping to change pack sizes or switch from one type of pasta to another,” explained a UK supermarket .
“We have 20 different sizes and styles of pasta, we're going to move it to six.”
To keep employees focused on “stocking the shelves, helping to supply the essential groceries you're looking for, and avoiding waste,” Tesco will close the meat, fish and deli counters and salad bars . Expect to see cafes, pizza counters, and closed coffeemakers in stores, too.
This does not mean that we are running out of meat, salads or coffee beans; it just means you have to prepare these items at home.
2. There is enough food for everyone if everyone buys it fairly
To cope with disruption of the supply chain, stores are encouraging customers to buy only what they need.
Belgian supermarket chain Colruyt said that hoarding “is not really necessary ” because there is so much supply.
After a hectic week of people around the world panicking to buy essentials like toilet paper, some supermarkets are restricting purchases to ensure there is enough for everyone. Tesco is limiting purchases of all items to three per customer to avoid unnecessary hoarding, while Sainsbury's is limiting toilet paper , soap and UHT milk to two per customer.
In the United States, Harris Teeter customers can only purchase three items in the following categories: toilet paper, canned meat, pasta, cleaning supplies, and certain medications.
3. Supermarkets are hiring to meet demand
While many employees, particularly in the retail and hospitality sectors, are facing job losses, supermarkets are hiring.
In the UK, Co-op has 5,000 new temporary jobs available, and encourages people to walk to their nearest store with “a view to start working in a matter of days”.
Workers are also needed to keep supply chains moving.
The fruit and berry industry “will organize a large-scale recruitment campaign to encourage people in the UK looking for work due to the current economic impact of the coronavirus to come and work on our farms,” said Nick Marston, President of British Summer Fruits.
4. Elderly and vulnerable people have their own shopping hours
As researchers continue to study COVID-19 and how it is transmitted, we know that the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions face an increased risk of complications and death.
To ensure these populations have enough food and supplies with less risk of coming in contact with the virus, supermarkets around the world are instituting special shopping hours for them.
Whole Foods , Sainsbury's and Waitrose, to name a few, have designated the first hour after opening for elderly and vulnerable customers. Tesco stores are exclusively open between 9 and 10 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Elsewhere, younger, healthier customers are encouraged to continue shopping in-store as usual, or to choose to pick up online purchases at the store, allowing vulnerable and isolated elderly populations to access to food delivery stations.
5. Supermarket employees work very hard at personal risk – and always appreciate appreciation.
While you're at home, supermarket employees continue to show up at work every day, putting themselves at risk by coming in contact with hundreds or thousands of people who may be asymptomatic.
Many stores, including Tesco and Whole Foods, will close early to allow employees the opportunity to sanitize the store, replenish supplies, and, of course, rest.
Others are building transparent displays to protect employees from cashiers and encourage customers to pay by credit card without contact when possible.
What can be done? A simple “thank you” when you leave the store or when you see an employee refueling the pasta aisle can go a long way in these tough times.