Purchasing is reaching a fever pitch on a growing list of grocery and household SKUs as shoppers across the country seek to hoard scores of items from hand sanitizer to disinfecting wipes and shelf-stable food such as soup in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
While retailers such as Wegmans, Kroger and Minneapolis-based Target have begun restricting customers to a limited number of purchases on key items, many stores are struggling to keep sanitizing products and foods with a longer shelf life in stock.
On a March 9 visit to a Denver-area Target store, WGB saw signs in multiple aisles that read: “Due to high demand to support all guests, we will be limiting the quantities of disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizers and hand and face wipes to six per guest.”
But there was not a single container of hand sanitizer nor disinfectant wipes available for purchase in the usually well-stocked approximately 200,000-square-foot store.
Grocers such as Wegmans in Rochester, N.Y., and San Antonio-based H-E-B have issued statements intended to allay coronavirus fears and reassure shoppers that customer safety is always top of mind.
“We have a high-level team comprised of employees from across the organization—formed 25 years ago—whose purpose is to ensure the safety of our employees, customers and products. This team meets regularly, and when necessary, with external experts to review our contingency plans for a variety of different scenarios, including potential infectious disease outbreaks," said Wegmans’ officials in a response to COVID-19 on March 9. “If any of the areas in which we operate are impacted, know that we are prepared to respond accordingly. As an ever-evolving topic, we will continue to closely monitor the situation and adjust as necessary.”
Wegmans went on to share that it is experiencing product shortages on items customers tend to stock up on during flu season, including hand sanitizer, anti-bacterial hand soap and cleaning supplies. Its shoppers are also stocking up on paper products and a variety of food items, particularly those with a longer shelf life.
Photograph by WGB staff
“Availability of hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide and disposable gloves are limited; however, we continue to receive shipments of these items. Face masks are currently unavailable,” the retailer said in the statement.
To help ensure the availability of high-demand items for all customers, Wegmans is limiting the purchase of hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, alcohol wipes and prep pads, and hydrogen peroxide to three each per order.
Wegmans further reported an increase in its e-commerce business. It expects demand for online purchasing will continue to grow.
Halfway across the country, H-E-B has issued similar statements to its customers regarding safety and supplies during this time of uncertainty.
“While the emergence of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is an evolving situation with many unknowns, we are sure of one thing: We will do our part to help our fellow Texans prepare,” said H-E-B in a recently released statement.
In addition to sanitizing its stores at a higher frequency, offering additional wellness resources for its staff and scaling back its presence at large community gatherings, H-E-B has eliminated all business-related air travel both domestically and internationally for H-E-B partners until further notice.
Part of its commitment to helping fellow Texans involves working to keep much-coveted essentials in stock by limiting purchases, the retailer said.
“Texans must continue to prepare, but panic does not promote progress,” said H-E-B. “In order to help ensure all can secure the products they need when they need them, we’ve implemented limits on certain items, because we know limits will help protect the supply chain in Texas.
“While our customers might find our supply of some products low or temporarily out of stock, please rest assured knowing that we’re maintaining close contact with our suppliers, and our partners are working around-the-clock to keep our shelves stocked.”