During the recent outbreak of COVID-19, few businesses have benefited quite like supermarkets and online retailers. With queues in some cases stretching for miles, supermarkets have struggled to keep up with demand for products such as toilet paper, pasta, and goods with longer shelf lives. Whilst many have found themselves furloughed or jobless during this difficult time, the opposite rings true for supermarket workers - with recruitment drives happening at an unprecedented rate in an attempt to keep up with demand. We've taken a closer look at what measures supermarkets have been putting in place to help them cope in the face of COVID-19.
Tesco has added an additional 200 vans to it's fleet as well as hiring an extra 2,500 drivers and 5,000 stock pickers to cope with the spike in demand. The move comes as the UK's largest supermarket chain has committed to providing an extra 100,000 online delivery slots, as more people take to the internet to shop during lockdown. In addition to increased resource, Tesco has placed some restrictions on the general public too - capping orders at 80 items, and prioritising the most vulnerable.
For those who can't get a slot online, measures are being taken instore to help shoppers practice social distancing. Markers across car parks and shop floors indicate how far apart customers should stand when queuing and walking the aisles, whilst the numbers of people allowed instore at any one time have been significantly reduced.
Online supermarket Ocado closed its website for several days as it grappled with a surge in demand due to the Coronavirus pandemic, carrying out 'essential maintenance work' to make product and delivery slot distribution as “fair and accessible” as possible. Priority is being given to existing customers in terms of delivery slots, new customers will either be put on a waiting list or be turned away if they try to book a slot.
In an effort to keep staff safe, Ocado issued guidance to all delivery drivers directing them to remain at the end of customers' driveways - to keep to social distancing rules. Following advice from the World Health Organisation, Ocado has temporarily paused its bag recycling scheme, requiring all bags to be disposed of to prevent the virus from spreading.
Ocado has however benefited from the lockdown and has seen a surge in popularity, it is now worth more than Sainsbury's, Marks and Spencers and Morrison's combined, it could be a very exciting future ahead for the retailer.
Key workers and those working for the NHS have been given priority shopping hours at all major supermarkets as well as discounts on grocery and toiletry products. Supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s, Tesco, M&S and Waitrose have all adjusted their opening and closing times to give these groups priority access to sought after products.
One area that has seen supermarkets trying to play catch-up, is the dramatic shift in customer demand since lockdown was announced in March. Panic took over the general public as stockpiling surged and previously common items suddenly became impossible to get hold of. A month or so on however, it appears that the supermarket interventions mentioned above are beginning to pay off. Stock levels of the most popular products (pasta, eggs, toilet roll etc) are beginning to pick up, and supply of other surprisingly popular products such as gut health drinks are keeping up with demand.
We don't yet know what the future holds as far as COVID-19 and lockdown are concerned, but what we can say with confidence is that as we all start adjusting to life in this 'new normal', so too will supermarkets who are working hard to prepare for this new 'digital age' of grocery shopping that has been unexpectedly thrust upon them.