Coronavirus: As consumers stockpile, can grocery supply chains meet demand?

Sold out toilet paper

As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK rises daily and consumers begin to stockpile products, Retail Week looks at whether retail supply chains are robust enough to cope with increased demand.

Following an emergency Cobra meeting yesterday, prime minister Boris Johnson said the UK was still in the first ‘containment’ phase of a four-part plan to tackle the virus, although he conceded it was “going to spread in a significant way”. At the time of writing, there were 373 confirmed cases across the country.

The secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, George Eustice, held a joint call yesterday evening with representatives from supermarkets and food industry bodies. Eustice outlined a number of measures the government would take to ensure that people would remain fed in the event of the virus spreading more widely.

Among the measures discussed were relaxing rules on grocers delivering stock from warehouses to stores during “antisocial” hours, such as early in the morning and late at night. Defra also indicated it would like to see food retailers ramp up online deliveries, as well as click-and-collect services, if more people self-isolate.

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