The UK’s big grocers appealed for calm over the weekend as shoppers continued to empty shelves in coronavirus stockpiling, while around the world-leading retailers closed stores en masse as the crisis bit.

  • ‘Be considerate,’ grocers urge shoppers as Aldi restricts sales of all products
  • Apple, Nike and Zara among retailers to shut shops
  • Iceland and Carrefour introduce dedicated times for older shoppers to visit to limit infection 

In an unprecedented joint letter, supermarket groups attempted to reassure customers about stock availability and urged them to shop considerately. The appeal came as grocers restricted sales of items such as hand sanitiser, with Aldi limiting customers to a maximum of four items across all products.

They took action as shops were shuttered internationally by some of the industry’s biggest names. Apple has closed all its stores outside China until March 27, Nike branches will cease trading in markets including the US and western Europe until the same date, Walmart is trading reduced hours in more than 2,000 US branches and fashion giant Inditex, owner of Zara, is shutting all branches in its home market of Spain.

The grocers’ appeal, signed by Sainsbury’s, the Co-op, Lidl, Tesco, Aldi, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Asda, Iceland, Morrisons, Ocado and Costcutter, was issued through trade body the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and published in Sunday newspapers.

The letter, addressed “to our customers”, read: “We know that many of you are worried about the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19). We want to let you know that we are doing everything we can so that you and your families have the food and essentials you need.

“We are working closely with government and our suppliers to keep food moving quickly through the system and making more deliveries to our stores to ensure our shelves are stocked. Those of us with online delivery and click-and-collect services are running them at full capacity to help you get the products you need when you need them.

“We thank all our colleagues in stores and supply chains who are working day and night to keep the nation fed.

“But we need your help too.

“We would ask everyone to be considerate in the way they shop. We understand your concerns, but buying more than is needed can sometimes mean that others will be left without. There is enough for everyone if we all work together.

“Together we can make sure we are looking out for family, friends, neighbours. Together we will care for those around us and those who are elderly, vulnerable or choosing to remain at home.

“We are doing all we can to rise to this challenge. Serving you and keeping you and everyone who works with us safe will always be our priority.”

Older people are most at risk from coronavirus and some retailers have begun to offer dedicated shopping times for them. French giant Carrefour is opening for those over 70 between 7.45am and 8.30am in some locations.

The Iceland store at Kennedy Centre, west Belfast, will begin opening between 8am and 9am for the elderly starting tomorrow, Northern Irish politician Paul Doherty tweeted. He said: ”The wider public are asked to respect this hour as it has been allocated for elderly people only. Would be great to see other stores now do the same.”

Businesses in other sectors are also taking action. French luxury goods powerhouse LVMH, for instance, is turning over manufacturing capacity to make hand sanitiser rather than perfumes.

The company said: ”LVMH will use the production lines of its perfume and cosmetic brands to produce large quantities of hydroalcoholic gels from Monday.

“These gels will be delivered free of charge to the health authorities.”