Supermarkets lead on COVID-19 responseAndrew Smith
While the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve, governments are in overdrive to mitigate the potential risks to public health, wellbeing and world markets of what is undoubtedly the most significant global event to occur in a lifetime. Financial markets have experienced sharp and sudden shifts, with Bank of England cutting the UK base interest rate to 0.1 per cent on Thursday, its lowest ever level.
We at Innesco are keeping a close eye on the residential and retail sectors, including the huge changes in buyer behaviour emerging across different sub-sectors of retail. While the fallout of COVID-19 for retail is yet to be determined, we have been impressed by some of the immediate actions of some retailers, namely supermarkets, to respond to huge spikes in demand from ‘panic buyers.’
This week we have witnessed a return to rationing for the first time since WWII in order to relieve pressure on supplies of domestic essentials including canned goods, soap, sanitisers and – dare I say it – toilet paper. From Wednesday 17 March, Sainsbury’s customers have been restricted to purchasing a maximum of three of any grocery products and a maximum of two of the most popular items, toilet paper included.
Asda, Waitrose and Tesco have implemented similar restrictions, aiming to limit the amount of baked beans, dry pasta, UHT milk and other long-lasting food items and sanitary products that customers can purchase. After meeting with Supermarket and food industries bosses on Thursday, the UK Environment Secretary has confirmed some elements of competition legislation will be temporarily waived as of next, allowing supermarkets to work together to keep shelves stocked.
Mirroring their European counterparts, we’ve also seen the introduction of early morning ‘Silver Hour’ shopping windows for high-risk elderly shoppers, by Lidl, Iceland, Sainsburys and, most recently Waitrose. This initiative, allowing over-70s to buy food and manage their finances in-store outside of supermarkets’ busiest hours, is highly commendable, and reflective of a community mindset that we, the human race, must adopt in these unprecedented times to limit the risks to the most vulnerable in society.
Amid the uncertainty, there is reason to smile this week as stories emerge of good deeds being done by neighbours to help each other during periods of isolation, such as dropping off weekly food shops or making runs to the local pharmacy. We love the ‘Help Map’ launched on the local community-based app, ‘Neighbourhood’ in the US on Wednesday, which lets you mark yourself as available to help with anything from grocery shopping to child care. Of course, anyone offering help to at-risk neighbours must ensure they are following advice from health authorities such as WHO – which we too encourage all of our clients, colleagues and friends follow.
We can comfortably say we are all in this for a while yet and, as an international business, Innesco continues to monitor events in all our active countries. In the new digital age of a connected workforce, the team are all now working remotely – and its going well!
Now more than ever, communications with key stakeholders is of paramount importance, and our teams are on hand to provide advice, guidance and support.
Andrew Smith, Senior Account Executive, Innesco