Coronavirus: Sainsbury's becomes latest supermarket to introduce dedicated shopping hour for elderly and vulnerable

'We have enough food for everyone - if we all just buy what we need for us and our families,' says supermarket boss

Sarah Young
Wednesday 18 March 2020 09:13 GMT
Older people enjoy dedicated shopping sessions at supermarkets

Sainsbury's has become the latest supermarket to announce measures to help the elderly and vulnerable during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

In recent weeks many members of the public have been buying large quantities of food and household products at supermarkets, despite the prime minister discouraging them from doing so.

Such stockpiling has seen images of empty supermarket shelves circulate on social media and caused concern that vulnerable members of society, such as the elderly, people with disabilities and those with health conditions, will be unable to buy items they need.

As a result, a number of retailers have been introducing shopping hours specifically for the most vulnerable customers, the latest of which is Sainsbury’s.

On Wednesday Mike Coupe, Sainsbury’s chief executive, announced that the supermarket will only open to the elderly and vulnerable for the first hour of trading, and that it will remain open for one hour longer so other shoppers do not miss out.

The new plans are being extended to online shopping too, with Sainsbury's giving customers over 70 and those with a disability priority access to online delivery slots from Monday.

Customers will also only be able to buy a maximum of three of any grocery product and a maximum of two on the most popular items such as toilet roll, soap and UHT milk from Wednesday onward.

Mr Coupe added that as of Thursday, Sainsbury's will be closing its cafes and its meat, fish and pizza counters to free up freight capacity for essential products.

“As we work to feed the nation, we are also focusing all of our efforts on getting as much food and other essential items from our suppliers, into our warehouses and onto shelves as we possibly can”, Mr Coupe said.

“We still have enough food for everyone - if we all just buy what we need for us and our families.”

Tesco has had to bring in similar purchasing restrictions to curb panic buying, particularly on anti-bacterial wipes, dried pasta and toilet roll.

It was forced to take its mobile app offline temporarily due to high demand on Tuesday, and announced it would be reducing the hours of all of its 24-hour stores to 6am to 10pm.

A spokeswoman said: “It gives our colleagues the time overnight to restock the store, replenish the shelves and support our online grocery service at a time when demand is high.”

Elsewhere, Morrisons announced on Tuesday it is creating 3,500 jobs to meet surging demand for its home delivery service caused by the pandemic.

The chain said it would be recruiting 2,500 pickers and drivers while hiring about 1,000 people to work in distribution centres.

It is also planning a new call centre for those without access to online shopping, plus the launch of a new range of simple-to-order food parcels from next Monday.

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