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Sainsbury’s Shuts Cafes, Closes Counters to Focus on Replenishing Shelves Stripped by Panic Buying

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The Sainsbury’s supermarket chain in the United Kingdom closed its cafes as well as fresh meat, fish and pizza counters on March 19 until further notice. The action was taken, according to a post at the London, England-headquartered company’s website, “to help us get more essential items onto the shelves” at a time when shoppers are heavily increasing purchases to boost home inventory of foodstuffs and other products in reaction to the coronavirus crisis sweeping the nation and the world.

“This means we can free up warehouse and lorry capacity for products that customers really need. It will also free up time for our store colleagues to focus on keeping the shelves as well stocked as possible,” said Sainsbury’s CEO Mike Coupe.

Restrictions on the purchase of a number of products are in place. Until further notice, customers will be able to buy a maximum of three of any grocery products and a maximum of two on the most popular products including toilet paper, soap and UHT milk.

“We have enough food coming into the system, but are limiting sales so that it stays on shelves for longer and can be bought by a larger numbers of customers,” said Coupe.

Special Shopping Time for Elderly and Disabled

On Thursday Sainsbury’s reserved the first hour of shopping exclusively for elderly and vulnerable customers. From Monday, March 23, its e-commerce customers who are over 70 years of age or have a disability will have priority access to online delivery slots.

“For any online customer who can travel to our stores, from March 23 we will operate an expanded ‘click and collect’ service,” said Coupe. “We are significantly increasing the number of collection sites across the country over the coming days in preparation for this. Customers can place their order online as usual and pick it up from a collection point in the store car park. Please let us know if you are self-isolating to help us provide this service for you too.”

Iceland Also Addresses Needs

Frozen food retail specialist Iceland has also set aside dedicated times and dates for elderly customers and those with special needs to shop at its stores. The company issued a statement earlier this week addressing the impact of the coronavirus scare and how it is disrupting routines for many people and businesses. It reads, in part:

“With many of our Iceland stores located at the heart of communities across the UK, we are encouraging our managers to dedicate the first two hours of opening on Wednesday morning to the elderly (those of state pension age) and vulnerable people in their community, such as those with disabilities.

“We are giving them the flexibility to offer this wherever possible, and arrangements will be publicized in the stores that decide to take this action.

“We are focused on being able to feed the nation and to support the most in need.”