Chaos at the checkout
It all started with a run on toilet rolls
Several of the big food retailers report signs of panic buying. Toilet paper quickly becomes the top item stockpiled by people, despite most of the UK’s rolls being made at home.
Retail analysts warn that the army could be called in to protect depots, food lorries and stores. “Yes, it will be chaotic (and expect pictures of empty shelves),” analyst Bruno Monteyne says.
Some chains begin limiting sales of essential food and household items. Shoppers are limited to buying no more than five of certain goods initially in some stores and online.
Supermarkets put up signs on the shelves to discourage bulk buying. Staff at the tills are verbally abused in some cases by disgruntled customers after being told off for buying too much.
Retailers write an open letter asking shoppers to shop considerately. “We understand your concerns but buying more than is needed can sometimes mean that others will be left without,” they say.
Supermarkets drastically cut product ranges to increase volumes. Morrisons was able to pack 65pc more loaves of bread a week, for example, by cutting the types of bread on offer from 17 to seven.
Meanwhile, the Government relaxes competition rules to allow retailers to work together to feed the nation. Rules around drivers’ hours are also loosened to deliver more food to shops overnight.
A tearful nurse urges the public to stop panic buying in viral video after being unable to buy food: “There’s no fruit, there’s no vegetables. I just don’t know how I’m supposed to stay healthy.”
Supermarkets limit shoppers in store as rules tighten. They install protective screens for staff; encourage shoppers to pay by contactless card; and on the floor there are markings to guide shoppers.
The first food boxes are delivered to vulnerable people. They contain: UHT long life milk, tinned produce, pasta, toilet roll, breakfast cereal, some fruit and vegetables and bread.
Supermarkets begin to relax rationing after the stockpiling crisis. Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, tells Britons to “try and shop just once a week, do the essentials and not everything else”.
Supermarket sales top £10.8bn in record four weeks, more than is recorded at Christmas, data firm Kantar says. People spend an extra £1.9bn in March compared with the year before.