Coronavirus panic sees shops' sales volumes rival Christmas ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Bread shelves in a Rimi supermarket in Saaremaa on Thursday
Bread shelves in a Rimi supermarket in Saaremaa on Thursday Source: Jaanika Saarvee

Buying panic caused by coronavirus news on Thursday saw elevated sales volumes in some shops, with shelves emptied of goods by the evening. Supermarket chains say shelves were restocked by next morning.

Member of the board of the Selver chain of supermarkets Kristi Lomp said on Vikerraadio's "Uudis+" program that the market situation has escalated over the past week and that shops can talk about two Christmases this year.

"Our sales volumes have grown, even tripling yesterday (Thursday – ed.), and it is difficult to react to growing demand this quickly, but I believe that Selver and other Estonian food sellers are quite flexible today. I visited a few shops this morning and saw restocked shelves there," Lomp said, admitting that Thursday sales volumes were surprising and unexpected.

Sales of products with a long shelf life grew the most, with more hygiene products, cleaning supplies, dry goods and frozen products, but also fruit and vegetable sold. Sales of clothing and household items were down.

Lomp said that Selver can react to new volumes in a few weeks, and its buying and logistics specialists are busy securing additional supplies. Goods are delivered to shops two or three times a day instead of the usual one.

Selver buying managers booked goods in advance with wholesalers a week ago and its warehouses also hold moderate stockpiles. Lomp said that it is likely most people have hoarded enough toilet paper to last them for a very long time by now and that sales should start coming down in the next few days.

"Our stockpiles are constantly complemented," she said. "Perhaps we will offer a reduced selection. Producers have said they will be concentrating on making specific top products. This could mean that there will be less availability for some products, but no one will go hungry or without things they need."

The representative of Selver said their suppliers and partners have assured Selver of sufficient stockpiles and shelves should be full again as soon as the shop rally ends in the coming days. She urged people to keep a cool head and not stockpile so much food and contribute to food waste as not all goods keep forever.

Lomp did not rule out Selver limiting how many items of certain goods people can buy should major shopping volumes persist. No such decision has been made right now.

Rimi: Warehouses full

CEO of the Rimi supermarket chain Vaido Padumäe said the company's two main priorities are employee safety and availability of goods.

"Looking around our shops yesterday, one might have been left with the impression that goods have run out, but I can assure people we're perfectly capable of restocking our shelves today," he said. Rimi warehouses have enough goods to cater to our regular number of clients. We have considerably boosted our orders and can confidently say there are no critical problems."

Padumäe said there is no cause for despair or frantic shopping.

Food industry urges restraint

Head of the Estonian Food Industry Association Sirje Potisepp said that Estonia is not looking at a famine and that most producers have stockpiles for several months, which is why it is not sensible for people to buy food products in bulk.

"What we're seeing is a panic, while there is no cause for it. Estonia is not looking at a famine. Employees might take ill and availability of certain imported goods might take a hit, but I dare say we can guarantee there will be enough food and expect people to be understanding and keep a cool head," she said.

Potisepp explained that frantic buying will only escalate the situation by upsetting stability and that companies are not prepared to fill double or triple orders.

The food industry association has sent a letter to the Estonian Traders Union, asking supermarket chains for patience if producers cannot fill bigger orders right away.

Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart asked representatives of supermarkets for a meeting on Friday. Executive manager of the traders union Nele Peil also said that buying panic is needless at the press conference that followed the meeting. Kõlvart said that there is enough goods for everyone in Tallinn and people have nothing to worry about.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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