'No need to panic buy': Shops ask for level-heads over product shortages

Martin Deltrice, owner of the St Faith's Post Office and Stores at Horsham St Faiths, who doesn't un

Martin Deltrice said he was having to work a lot harder to make sure all the stock was there, but that so far his strategy was paying off - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Customers have been warned they may come across the "occasional empty shelf" as wholesalers face "pingdemic" staff shortages — but told there is no need to panic buy.

Supermarkets have urged customers not to head out and grab everything they can as brands such as the Co-Op, Sainsburys and Tesco admit product shortages and empty shelves, reminiscent of the first lockdown, is causing anxiety among the public.

They said the issues were temporary as they awaited deliveries, attributing the shortage to a lack of HGV drivers and the NHS app "pinging" thousands of employees and slowing down operations. 

A Sainsbury's message to customers as the "pingdemic" hits retail staff hard

A Sainsbury's message to customers as the "pingdemic" hits retail staff hard - Credit: Archant

But a straw poll among EDP reporters showed that Norfolk is coping well.

In the Sainsbury's on Brazen Gate in Norwich, only a few products such as water, fizzy drinks and some types of fruit and veg were missing from the shelves — as they were in the Morrisons on Albion Way.

In the North Walsham Sainsbury's and Lidl branches, one shopper said everything was "completely normal".

In the Tesco at Hunstanton, there was no avocadoes, a few gaps on fresh veg and salad but no empty shelves. 

The salad shelves in some Norfolk supermarkets were running low on stock

The salad shelves in some Norfolk supermarkets were running low on stock - Credit: Archant

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But while supermarkets have for the most part enough staff to keep operations going, and enough stock to ride out temporary shortages, convenience store owners have said the situation is more uncertain for them.

Gail Watling, owner of Red's Convenience Store in Norwich, said if shortages got to the point of being "severe" it may begin to affect business.

"We've been to the wholesaler every day this week to get everything we can, but there's shortages in drinks and water bottles in particular at the moment", she said. 

"And they don't even have enough people to pick our products once we've put in a delivery. We've had to go and do that ourselves.

Shops have warned that shortages are only temporary

Shops have warned that shortages are only temporary - Credit: Archant

"With the hot weather this could affect business, but we won't know for certain unless the problem persists beyond a week or so.

"We're lucky that we're in a position to buy stock and store it in advance. We've got the money and space to do that, but other small stores might not have.

"It's definitely going to be frustrating if someone comes into our shop for something and we have to turn them away."

She went on: "I don't think people are panic buying, or are going to start panic buying, because the shortages aren't anything to do with demand, and people aren't stuck inside relying on one big shop a week anymore like the first lockdown. There's no need to panic.

Empty ice cube shelf

Empty shelves at local supermarkets were few and far between in Norfolk, with most of the stores coping well - Credit: Archant

"It's just a lack of HGV drivers, due to Brexit, and then the app "pinging" everyone and forcing them to self-isolate.

"Once those issues are fixed, and the self-isolation rule ends, everything will be fine.

"I hope people don't make a mountain out of a molehill."

Gail Watling and her husband Ian run Reds Convenience Store. Photo: Gail Watling

Gail Watling and her husband Ian run Reds Convenience Store. Photo: Gail Watling - Credit: Archant

Martin Deltrice from Horsham St Faith Post Office and Stores said he was doing "a lot of running around" to get all the stock he needed, but that so far it was working.

"We've not been able to get any hot-dog sausages anywhere at the moment, but that's about it really", he said.

"I've had to work harder and try a lot of different wholesalers to get what I need. Most of the time one of them comes through.

"I learned in the first lockdown that as small convenience stores we can't just rely on our tried and tested wholesalers anymore. We need to shop around.

"Customers may see the occasional empty shelf at their local shop, but the current shortage problem is nowhere near as bad as the first lockdown. There's no need to panic buy."

Iceland supermarket, Cromer.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

The Iceland supermarket in Cromer. - Credit: Antony Kelly

Simone Harper from north Norfolk said emptier shelves were a common sight in tourist areas this time of year regardless of the pandemic.

"From now until September the holidaymakers come and bread, bread-rolls and salad always disappear quickly", she said.

"Seasonal planning needs to be taken by the supermarkets. They know they're in holiday hotspots here in Norfolk."