Panic buying forces return to limits

On Friday morning, shoppers emptied the toilet paper shelves at Coles after 30 new cases of Covid-19 were recorded 500kms away in Melbourne.

PANICKED consumers stripped supermarket shelves of toilet paper on Friday as Victoria recorded a clear second wave of Covid-19. Tumut Coles was able to keep toilet paper in supply all weekend, partly due to shopping limits which have been re-imposed and partly due to a quick response from head office.
“We’ve had it all weekend. It gets a bit low, but we won’t run out,”said Store Manager Jane Barton.
Mrs Barton said some brands still sell out, but there should always some type of toilet paper available, with a limit at Coles of one package per person per day.
“The business has jumped on it really quick,” she explained. “They’ve made sure we won’t run out.”
Bare shelves in supermarket aisles on Friday brought a sense of resignation to many shop workers, rather than fear, as a spike in Covid-19 cases in Victoria were once again prompting panic buying.
On Friday, Tumut Coles’ toilet paper was all bought out as Victoria recorded 30 new cases of coronavirus. On Monday, the state recorded 75 new cases, which is the fourth highest spike in Victoria since Covid-19 began.
The state total on Monday was at 2103.
Door to door testing was underway in Broadmeadows and Keilor Down, two suburbs of Melbourne which were showing high numbers of community transmission.
In NSW, six new cases were recorded on Friday, including one high school student in Camden and five returning travellers in hotel quarantine. On Monday that number had risen to 3,184, with just 18 cases reported over the weekend.
Mrs Barton blamed media headlines for emptying her stock of toilet paper on Friday morning, but said the real threat isn’t local at this point.
“If everybody just buys what they need, we will have plenty for everybody,” she said.
Supermarkets across the country have now reintroduced buying limits, with Coles announcing a one package of toilet paper per day limit and Woolworths setting a two-pack limit per person per day.
“I think they’re just being precautionary,” said Mrs Barton.
Mrs Barton said she was prepared for a second wave of the virus and a second round of panic buying, but “it’s just come really quick again.”
Panic buying was worse in Victoria and along the NSW border, where Coles has also limited shoppers to two packets of household staples like pasta and rice.
In a statement, Coles said, “We ask that customers continue to shop normally so that everyone can have access to the food and groceries they need.”
Woolworths has introduced similar limits on products in Victoria and ordered an additional 650,000 packs of toilet rolls for its nationwide network of stores. That figure is 30 per cent up on usual volumes for this time of year.
Woolworths on Friday reinstated a two pack limit on toilet paper and paper towel in all Australian stores.
Woolworths Supermarkets Managing Director Claire Peters said: “We’ve regrettably started to see elevated demand for toilet roll move outside Victoria in the past 24 hours.
“While the demand is not at the same level as Victoria, we’re taking preventative action now to get ahead of any excessive buying this weekend and help maintain social distancing in our stores.
“We have ordered more than 650,000 additional packs of toilet roll into our network, which is an increase of more than 30 percent on our usual volumes.
“We have plenty of stock for all of us, so we encourage our customers to buy only what they need and think of others in the community as they shop this weekend. If customers already have enough toilet roll at home, there is no need to buy more.”
The supermarket chains say once panic buying eases, the limits will again be removed.