“But we expect that to taper as customers have reassurance that our stores will continue to trade,” he said.
Mixed messages from the federal and state governments on Sunday night over varying levels of lockdown measures prompted significant confusion amongst shoppers over what stores would be marked as an “essential service”. Customers rushed to liquor stores, stocking up on alcohol in case bottle shops were set to close.
Ritchies Supa IGA chief executive Fred Harrison also said the demand had begun to wane. His stores’ sales had been up between 100 and 150 per cent before the weekend and had since moderated back down to be up around 80 per cent.
“We’re almost encouraging a bit of normality just so we can get the supply chain topped up,” he said.
A Coles spokesperson also said there had been “signs that the demand is beginning to slow”.
“This is in part due to customers taking heed of advice to stop over-purchasing, and also increased numbers of team members working in our stores, support from suppliers to improve availability, introducing purchase limits, reducing the hours of trade, and government intervention to relax truck curfews,” the spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission announced on Tuesday it would permit collaboration between the country’s supermarkets to stave off supply pressures caused by the surge in panicked shoppers.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the watchdog had turned the interim authorisation around in just three days to expedite the deal which will allow retailers to work together with manufacturers, suppliers, and transport and logistics providers to ensure vulnerable and rural Australians could get access to groceries.
“Australia’s supermarkets have experienced unprecedented demand for groceries in recent weeks, both in-store and online, which has led to shortages of some products and disruption to delivery services,” Mr Sims said.
“This is essentially due to unnecessary panic buying, and the logistics challenge this presents, rather than an underlying supply problem.”
Coles, Woolworths, Aldi and Metcash are included in the ACCC’s agreement, and any other grocery retailer is able to participate if they wish.
The agreement does not allow the supermarkets to collectively agree on prices for products, however it will protect the supermarkets from any court action for conduct that would otherwise raise concerns under competition law.
The Department of Home Affairs has also established a ‘Supermarket Taskforce’, with representatives from the government, the ACCC, and the retailers, which will look to resolve any issues facing the sector during this crisis.
Dominic Powell writes about the retail industry for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.