Supermarkets are experiencing sharp increases in demand for online grocery services, as Australians continue to stockpile goods amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Both Coles and Woolworths told The New Daily requests for grocery deliveries and click-and-collect purchases have increased dramatically in the past fortnight or so.
Nielsen Homescan reported online grocery sales have grown by almost 50 per cent – and pantry staples are making up the bulk of sales, up 76 per cent for February, compared to last year.
We’re yet to see figures from the past two weeks, which is when panic buying entered a new territory of hysteria.
So as more consumers shun in-store shopping for online orders, it’s forcing the companies to employ health protocols for their delivery workers.
Coles has loaded up its delivery teams with hand sanitiser, and both supermarkets have put customers who are self-quarantined on notice to check the ‘leave unattended’ box when placing their orders.
Woolworths on Thursday night sent out a message from its CEO, acknowledging the “unusual and challenging times” that have led to panic buying – particularly toilet paper.
Woolies was the first supermarket to bring in purchase limits on toilet paper (four packs per customers), after the country was whipped into a frenzy, creating empty shelves and even fist fights as shoppers rushed to stock up.
Coles, Costco and Aldi followed on Thursday morning.
When hand sanitiser stocks comes back online, Woolworths announced it will keep it behind the customer services counter and bring in a two-pack limit.
The supermarket, in its letter to customers, said it won’t rule out bringing in more limits.
“…If we see new shortages, we may introduce other limits,” CEO Brad Banducci said.
“We’ll only do this if we think it’s absolutely necessary.”
For the end of days
It’s not just toilet paper that’s being bought up in bulk – pasta, rice and long-life milk are a rare sight on supermarket shelves as Australians stock their pantries with non-perishable foods.
Woolworths also whacked a limit for bulk rice buys on Thursday night: just one 2kg bag per customer.
Google data shows Australians are arming themselves with information – ‘What food to stockpile’ has shot into the top five search terms this week.
In results given to The New Daily the search engine revealed that 10 terms have not just spiked this week, but hit all-time highs for searches: grocery store, toilet paper, hand sanitiser, masks, tuna, soap, pasta, rice, oats, and tissues.
Some Australians – seemingly fed up with the increasing blow-out times for supermarkets’ delivery services – are turning to the share economy to get their goods.
More and more ads are appearing on Airtasker, where people are paying others to do their shopping runs for them, frequently requesting toilet paper, long-life milk and frozen food.
The run on toilet paper has hit new heights of ridiculousness – those who have stocked up are jumping at the chance to monetise the panic, selling rolls at seriously inflated prices.
A search on Gumtree reveals post after post of people flogging toilet paper – TND observed a new one appearing every five minutes or so.
It’s creating a widening gap between the haves and the have-nots – anger is swelling towards those who have over-bought on basic necessities like toilet paper, and it’s hurting the already disadvantaged sectors of the community.
“By buying a trolley load of toilet paper or 40 bags of oats, you’re stopping people who generally don’t have any. People who actually need it,” Victorian Council of Social Service CEO Emma King told The New Daily earlier this week.
There are special groups of people in our community who do not have the ability to shop on a regular basis, & when they do, they really need the essentials, like toilet paper to be available. Yes, stock up on 2 weeks worth of essentials, but not 3 or 4 months. #bekind pic.twitter.com/bjBNTiYapX
— Foodbank Australia (@FoodbankAus) March 4, 2020