Retail bosses urge Borders shoppers to stop panic-buying

Supermarket shelves are being emptied across the Borders as the current coronavirus outbreak leads to panic-buying taking hold.

By Paul Kelly
Wednesday, 18th March 2020, 5:40 pm
Kat Yule is still on a roll at times at her Hawick convenience store but supplies are becoming unreliable, she says.
Kat Yule is still on a roll at times at her Hawick convenience store but supplies are becoming unreliable, she says.

Specific items are literally flying off the shelves at superstores including Morrisons in Hawick as panic-stricken shoppers snap up fresh stocks as soon as they are replenished.

Rationing has been introduced for in-demand products such as soap, pasta and toilet rolls at stores including Tesco in Galashiels.

What started with unprecedented demand for sanitising gel and toilet tissue quickly moved on to tinned items and now embraces everything from sweet treats to alcohol.

Near-empty shelves at Morrisons in Hawick.

Despite warnings from bosses at the supermarket giants not to panic-buy, concerned customers seem determined to stock up for what they fear will be long periods of personal hibernation.

Messages of reassurance have been even been emailed to all Sainsbury’s store card holders shopping at its outlets in Hawick, Peebles and Kelso saying: “We have more food and essential items coming to us from manufacturers and into our warehouses and distribution centres.

“If we all shop just for the food that we and our families need, there will be enough for everyone.”

Iceland’s stores in Galashiels and Hawick are restricting opening from 10am to noon on Wednesdays, allowing only high-risk elderly shoppers in to pick up essentials.

Similarly, Sainsbury’s outlets in the region will be open for their first hour of trading today, from 8am to 9am, only to elderly and vulnerable customers so they get their shopping before anyone else, reducing their risk of Covid-19 infection.

Several supermarkets are also now offering new delivery services for customers unable to make it into retail outlets.

A spokesperson for the Spar store at North Hermitage Street in Newcastleton said: “Due to coronavirus, some people may be self-isolating or cautious about being in public areas, so we at Spar are happy to take orders and deliver to your door.”

As the crisis deepens, it is likely that staff in the region’s retail outlets will bear the brunt of anger from frustrated customers, and that’s a worry addressed on several social media sites.

And it’s not just the supermarket giants that are feeling the impact of the crisis, with small shopkeepers also being affected.

Kat Yule, boss of Kat’s Corner Shop in Hawick’s Myreslaw Green, fears her business could fold if the crisis continues, as is predicted, beyond the summer.

Two members of staff have also had to take extended breaks from their duties, one self-isolating and another off due to care responsibilities.

Kat said: “The problem is that there is literally nothing in stock to buy from my supplier. I’ve been across to my supplier, Booker in Galashiels, and I came away with a four-pack of toilet roll just to top up, and there was no pasta, no hand soap, no anti-bacterial stuff – nothing that folk are looking for.

“When it comes to your small retailers, you have pretty much zero chance of getting anything. It’s an absolute nightmare for someone who is independent.

“It’s also the case that a lot of kids are not being sent to their schools, so we are also missing out on that trade, which is quite a big part of the business, and the old ’uns are too scared to come out.

“We are in a really risky place. We live week to week, and it’s hard at the best of times, but if folks don’t support their local shop and keep things moving a bit, the business will be at risking of going under.

“A lot of other local shopkeepers will be in the same boat.”

A sense of growing panic was also reflected by soap dispensers and toilet rolls being stolen from public toilets in Galashiels, Newtown and Peebles over the weekend.