Empty shelves across SA as retailers come under pressure

After President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address to the nation on Sunday evening, people with the means to do so have cleared the shelves in local stores of items such as:

  • Hand sanitiser, soap, and disinfectants like Dettol and Savlon
  • Toilet paper
  • Bread, flour and instant yeast
  • Vegetables with a long shelf-life, such as onions, carrots and potatoes
  • Tinned goods
  • Long-life milk
  • Baby wipes
  • Medical items such as latex gloves, rubbing alcohol, surgical spirits and plastic pump bottles

As schools, universities and creches across the country close until after the Easter weekend and many adults begin working from home, the focus has fallen on social distancing. Consumers have stocked up on essential items in order to avoid having to go to shops more often.

Multiple retail outlets have ramped up their online shopping platforms in an effort to meet demand for contactless delivery. Many items are out of stock, or snapped up as soon as they are in stores again.

A Woolworths store in Johannesburg.

Helping those most susceptible to Covid-19

In response to the unprecedented buying frenzy, Pick n Pay announced on Tuesday that it will open all its supermarkets and hypermarkets an hour earlier every Wednesday for customers over the age of 65.
This is to curb their exposure to coronavirus, as they are at a higher risk of morbidity and mortality associated with the disease. From 18 March 2020, stores will be open exclusively from 07:00 to 08:00.
It is expected that other major retailers will follow suit.

Item limiting

Stores such as Pick n Pay, Woolworths and Clicks have begun limiting the number of certain items purchased per customer. Clicks has limited medicines to six per person.
Woolworths has introduced the following limits online:

  • Toilet paper – between 2 and 4 units per person
  • Wet wipes – 10 units per person
  • Hand wash – 4 units per person
  • Tissues – 6 units per person
  • Tuna – 12 cans per person

Reasons for the panic buying

Source: EWN

702’s Bongani Bingwa spoke to Gordon Institute of Business Science Dean, Professor Nicola Kleyn, to unpack the effects of panic buying.

“Academic papers suggest that panic buying is actually rational disaster buying. They are expecting that they may not have access to food stocks for some time.”

She said panic buying in the case of a disaster was a fairly short-lived phenomenon.

“When people feel that death is imminent, in most cases, they will panic. What we are seeing is psychological behaviour, it is less about the stock and more about what they are buying, like toilet paper.

“The hypothesis is that toilet paper is big and comfortable and relatively cheap for its size,” she says.

“Buying toilet paper is not panic buying, people want to feel that they have done what they needed to be prepared and toilet paper represents an easy purchase. People need to be conscious and rational when they go shopping. If people are stockpiling, they must be willing to offer those that can’t.”

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