Supermarkets and Covid-19

Greybeard33

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- Asking supermarkets to remove non essential items from sale is a complete non-starter. Staff need to be filling shelves, not wasting time emptying them
- Where would the items removed from the shelves be stored. There isn't space in store warehouses to do this. Returning the items to distribution centres would also not work - the staff in these centres are stretched enough picking and loading outbound deliveries to stores. Diverting them to unloading lorries of returned stock would impact the ability to get stock out to stores.
- Sealing off aisles with non-essential goods sounds attractive but who would police this? Supermarkets are already having to police queues outside stores and there really aren't the staff to police other areas of stores as well.
- Much stock is cross-merchandised so you might find frying pans by the eggs. Sealing off aisles would not work where items are cross merchandised.
Hardly an insuperable challenge! Just move the non essential stuff to one end of the store and cordon it off. That would give a more efficient flow of customers around the remaining aisles. No need for staff to "police" it - program the tills not to accept non essential items.

But heaven forfend the supermarkets should be asked to do anything that might dent the extra profits they are raking in during this crisis!
As well as completely missing the point, this is an unfair and misleading remark. Supermarkets are incurring a lot of additional costs.
And supermarkets are benefiting hugely from business rates relief, on top of a big increase in turnover and improvement in margins (less discounting).
One clear example of an industry not needing a bailout is the supermarkets, which are set to receive a £3bn business rates holiday this year as a result of the government’s support package. Shortly after the rates holiday was announced, Sainsbury’s put out a stock market announcement welcoming the news and highlighting that the company paid more than £500m in business rates last year. The company’s share price surged – the rates holiday is worth more than twice the company’s annual profit. Tesco has a business rates bill of £700m – equal to 50% of its profits for 2019. On Wednesday, the company increased its dividend by 60% – proposing a payout to shareholders of £637m. What possible argument does the company have that it needs a government subsidy?

No one can deny that the supermarkets are doing an amazing job of keeping the nation supplied. Their workers are putting themselves at risk every day, many earning less than those who are being paid to stay at home. The enormous shift in social habits that has taken place in a matter of days will be putting huge pressure on management, supply teams and other core functions. According to this week’s stock market update, Tesco has recruited 45,000 new staff in the past two weeks. Rightly, we need to thank all working in the industry. Their work really is key.
But despite the difficulties, there can be no doubt that for supermarkets, the crisis is good for business. Households stocking up on food and essentials in advance of the lockdown meant that March was the biggest month in history in terms of sales. With pubs closed, alcohol sales have surged by 22%.
https://www.theguardian.com/comment...permarkets-government-rishi-sunak-coronavirus
 
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yorkie

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While the statement in the article that the industry "will not be needing a bailout" it's too simplistic to say that this is benefiting them. They have incurred huge costs too. They also have various logistical problems, such as what to do with supply lines for stock that isn't selling.

Adding extra capacity in some areas, making the necessary changes to cope with huge changes in demand, and recruiting extra staff doesn't come cheap. Also some supermarkets may be quieter now if long queues put people off entering them (long queues at some supermarkets have affected my buying habits).

Do you know what those costs are?
 

Iskra

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People still have the same, finite amount of spending power. They are stocking up now, but there will be a time when people start eating/using-up what they have got which could then damage sales. Equally, when the lockdown ends, it is quite possible that everyone will flock to pubs and restaurants again making up for lost time, which could cause a sales drop then too.
 

Hadders

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It's far too early to say whether supermarkets will benefit from this or not. The key thing for supermarkets is to focus on at this time is feeding the nation.

Some things that have happened:

- Sales up massively in the first 3 weeks (good for profitability)
- Staff absence running at over twice normal levels (bad for profit)
- More generous paid sick schemes introduced - up tp 12 weeks on full pay for vulnerable staff (bad for profit)
- More staff being employed (the 'admin' costs of this is huge) (bad for profit)
- More generous bonus schemes introduced for staff (bad for profit)
- Cost of enforcing social distancing, e.g checkout screens, additional cleaning, staff to enforce queues etc (bad for profit)
- Inefficiencies in stores and especially depots caused by social distancing (bad for profit)
- Sales of General Merchandise and clothing are massively down. Stock in these areas is ordered on 6+ month lead time. Where does this stock go in the meantime if it cannot be sold? (bad for profit)
- Closure of restaurants and takeaways means more eating from home (good for profit)
- Little or no petrol or diesel being sold (bad for profit)

The Government have given relief on business rates this year which is a massive positive. This is something that many retailers (not just supermarkets) have been campaigning for reform on for may years to level the playing field with online retailers who have no high street presence (as they pay very, very low business rates in comparison). However it is interesting to note that the Welsh Government (aho set their own business rate rules) are already rowing back on this.

There will be other things to factor in to the equation as well but it's far, far too early to tell whether supermarkets will benefit from this and if they do by how much.
 

SamYeager

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- Closure of restaurants and takeaways means more eating from home (good for profit)
I'm pretty certain that takeaways are still allowed to be open and restaurants are allowed to operate a takeaway service if they wish but other than that I agree with the gist of your post.
 

Hadders

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I'm pretty certain that takeaways are still allowed to be open and restaurants are allowed to operate a takeaway service if they wish but other than that I agree with the gist of your post.
Yes, takeaways can still open although round my way almost all of them are shut.
 

trebor79

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I think supermarkets might lose long term. People are discovering local bakeries, butchers and grocers. Some of these businesses are now offering delivery.
I myself have found a superb butcher in a village an almost equal drive to the nearest supermarket. Lovely meat, pies, back pudding etc. Can't see me popping to Sainsbury's again for that sort of stuff. Likewise and excellent village shop nearby with fresh basked bread, good range of meat, veg, beer and gin, frozen home made ready meals, tins, cereals etc.
Bit more expensive, but better quality and no ridiculous queue to get in, and no stupid one way "system" (which actually increase the time I'm in the shop for and therefore exposure risk) once in.
Butcher and other small shop staff all reporting an enormous uplift in sales.
 

CaptainHaddock

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I think supermarkets might lose long term. People are discovering local bakeries, butchers and grocers. Some of these businesses are now offering delivery.
I myself have found a superb butcher in a village an almost equal drive to the nearest supermarket. Lovely meat, pies, back pudding etc. Can't see me popping to Sainsbury's again for that sort of stuff. Likewise and excellent village shop nearby with fresh basked bread, good range of meat, veg, beer and gin, frozen home made ready meals, tins, cereals etc.
Bit more expensive, but better quality and no ridiculous queue to get in, and no stupid one way "system" (which actually increase the time I'm in the shop for and therefore exposure risk) once in.
Butcher and other small shop staff all reporting an enormous uplift in sales.
Yes, that's putting me off visiting the bigger supermarkets too so I've discovered the joys of the local corner shop. They don't always have the well known brands and you do pay a little more but at the end of the day, essentials like bread, milk and bog roll are pretty much the same wherever you shop!
 

AM9

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I think supermarkets might lose long term. People are discovering local bakeries, butchers and grocers. Some of these businesses are now offering delivery.
I myself have found a superb butcher in a village an almost equal drive to the nearest supermarket. Lovely meat, pies, back pudding etc. Can't see me popping to Sainsbury's again for that sort of stuff. Likewise and excellent village shop nearby with fresh basked bread, good range of meat, veg, beer and gin, frozen home made ready meals, tins, cereals etc.
Bit more expensive, but better quality and no ridiculous queue to get in, and no stupid one way "system" (which actually increase the time I'm in the shop for and therefore exposure risk) once in.
Butcher and other small shop staff all reporting an enormous uplift in sales.
The supermarkets operate the one-way systems for the benefit of all of their customers, and it is quite depressing that a few seem to push past others because they are impatient and have no consideration for others.
 

trebor79

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The supermarkets operate the one-way systems for the benefit of all of their customers, and it is quite depressing that a few seem to push past others because they are impatient and have no consideration for others.
That's as maybe. But to my mind it's one of those things that sounds like a good idea but is actually if limited benefit or even counterproductive. A bit like the fools I saw wearing surgical masks, but covering only their mouths!
Tellingly, the local Sainsbury's hasn't done this whilst Tesco have. I myself backtracked on several occasions. What are people meant to do, walk round the whole store several times to get back to bits I've forgotten or missed because they've moved things to create barriers?
 
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AM9

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That's as maybe. But to my mind it's one of those things that sounds like a good idea but is actually if limited benefit or even counterproductive. A bit like the fools I saw wearing surgical masks, but covering only their mouths!
Tellingly, the local Sainsbury's hasn't done this whilst Tesco have. I myself backtracked on several occasions. What are people meant to do, walk round the whole store several times to get back to bits I've forgotten or missed because they've moved things to create barriers?
I can't speak for your experience but shoppers going to their normal outlets will know pretty well what they want and where it is located. Having forgotten something, you will probably remember it the next time. I've not experienced any moving of things or artificial barriers but my local supermarket seems to operate with a one-way system down each aisle, and only the occasional inconsiderate fool pushes past or goes the wrong way. So shops operating such schemes to help people to maintain a safe distance from each other are fine with me.
 

Meerkat

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They need the supermarkets to get themselves sorted out. People are pretty chilled about queuing for half an hour at the moment but the more people that go back to work the less chilled they will be about it.
 

6862

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They need the supermarkets to get themselves sorted out. People are pretty chilled about queuing for half an hour at the moment but the more people that go back to work the less chilled they will be about it.
I just had to queue for 1 hour at our local supermarket. That was the longest yet, but never queued for less than 20 minutes. It was unbearable and to be honest it felt humiliating. I hope this doesn't remain for too long, but I suspect that measures like this will need to be retained if 2m separation is required until we get a vaccine...
 

bramling

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I just had to queue for 1 hour at our local supermarket. That was the longest yet, but never queued for less than 20 minutes. It was unbearable and to be honest it felt humiliating. I hope this doesn't remain for too long, but I suspect that measures like this will need to be retained if 2m separation is required until we get a vaccine...
It's no good for those at work. For the furloughed brigade it's probably a bit of fun, but for those who might have just been at work for 12 hours or need to grab something during their break then it simply doesn't work.

This is partly why the guidance made clear that shopping should be *as infrequent as possible*.

After a couple of incidents, the Sainsbury's near my work have introduced priority access for certain groups, however this required a meeting with the store manager to put in place. It still isn't ideal as I'm sure people can picture the dagger looks when they see a bus driver on break "jump the queue".

Personally I feel more at risk queuing, as many in the queue get impatient and can't stand still and on their spot, whilst it's also common in my experience to be pestered by beggars in the queue. However there's no easy solution as shop-floor staff have to be able to work in safety.
 

6862

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It's no good for those at work. For the furloughed brigade it's probably a bit of fun, but for those who might have just been at work for 12 hours or need to grab something during their break then it simply doesn't work.

This is partly why the guidance made clear that shopping should be *as infrequent as possible*.
This was for essential shopping. I am currently working from home, and if I ever return to work I can imagine it would be totally unbearable having to queue for an hour after work to buy food, even if only once a week.
 

Bletchleyite

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This was for essential shopping. I am currently working from home, and if I ever return to work I can imagine it would be totally unbearable having to queue for an hour after work to buy food, even if only once a week.
Really? Unbearable? First world problems. It's not like you can go to the pub.

Shop locally and you'll avoid most of it anyway. I've not queued for a local shop (e.g. the small Co-op) at all yet.
 

Bletchleyite

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How quickly can delivery be ramped up? They need special vans and are the production lines open?
I think they should ramp it up in other ways, such as the Government mandating insurers to cover delivery of food items as SD&P and more supermarkets doing essentials boxes with limited choices like Morrisons are doing. An Amazon delivery bod (or whatever) can get round far more houses chucking boxes out than someone who has to unload crates etc, and the orders could be prepared more efficiently.
 

Meerkat

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Really? Unbearable? First world problems. It's not like you can go to the pub.

Shop locally and you'll avoid most of it anyway. I've not queued for a local shop (e.g. the small Co-op) at all yet.
I barely queue for my own shopping, but had to queue for 30mins to get in the big Sainsbury’s for a trolley load for my folks. They are struggling to get priority so they can get deliveries.
 

6862

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Really? Unbearable? First world problems. It's not like you can go to the pub.

Shop locally and you'll avoid most of it anyway. I've not queued for a local shop (e.g. the small Co-op) at all yet.
Perhaps unbearable was an exaggeration. I am just absolutely fed up and angry at the moment, which I admit doesn't excuse exaggeration.
 

Domh245

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Really? Unbearable? First world problems. It's not like you can go to the pub.

Shop locally and you'll avoid most of it anyway. I've not queued for a local shop (e.g. the small Co-op) at all yet.
I've not had to queue up at any of the local shops I've been to either but that doesn't mean it's a solution. They're generally more expensive, and comparatively poorly stocked compared to even small discount supermarkets like Lidl. They might be a solution if you're only looking after yourself and content to live off cans and a limited amount of fresh stuff, but shopping for families or trying to budget and it starts to become harder to justify
 

Bletchleyite

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I've not had to queue up at any of the local shops I've been to either but that doesn't mean it's a solution. They're generally more expensive, and comparatively poorly stocked compared to even small discount supermarkets like Lidl. They might be a solution if you're only looking after yourself and content to live off cans and a limited amount of fresh stuff, but shopping for families or trying to budget and it starts to become harder to justify
Then it may be preferable to choose to queue. But my main point was that it's really not "unbearable" unless the OP has some sort of disability that makes standing for a long period difficult. It's a mild inconvenience. As is having to change your diet a bit so you can shop at large stores less often.
 

6862

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Then it may be preferable to choose to queue. But my main point was that it's really not "unbearable" unless the OP has some sort of disability that makes standing for a long period difficult. It's a mild inconvenience. As is having to change your diet a bit so you can shop at large stores less often.
My point was actually about queuing like this continuing indefinitely (years), but as I admitted I was stupidly exaggerating. I think the overall situation will be unbearable for many people, but I agree that supermarket queuing in itself won't be.
 

bramling

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Really? Unbearable? First world problems. It's not like you can go to the pub.

Shop locally and you'll avoid most of it anyway. I've not queued for a local shop (e.g. the small Co-op) at all yet.
It could quite easily be unbearable if you’ve just finished being at work for 12 hours having been up since 0300, you’re back at work for same tomorrow, and again doing an extra shift the following day, plus still got your usual list of domestic things to get done.

The wider problem with the above is the extra shift - as that’s the first thing to bite the dust. As has been posted here many times, certain industries are very much relying on those extra shifts at the moment.

Then when key workers get priority access and find themselves getting dagger looks or passive-aggressive comments.

It may well be the case they they wi have to limit shopping to once or twice a week, although the logistics of doing and enforcing that would be difficult - and not helped with certain items having quotas as this could very well be encouraging repeat visits. Thankfully we have priority access next to work, though I’m trying not to exploit this out of respect towards colleagues. If only everyone limited themselves...
 

Bletchleyite

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It may well be the case they they wi have to limit shopping to once or twice a week, although the logistics of doing and enforcing that would be difficult - and not helped with certain items having quotas as this could very well be encouraging repeat visits. Thankfully we have priority access next to work, though I’m trying not to exploit this out of respect towards colleagues. If only everyone limited themselves...
Nobody in their right mind will go and put up with that daily unless they're an NHS Volunteer or shopping for someone else. I'm actually slightly flummoxed you think they are in any significant numbers.
 

bramling

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Nobody in their right mind will go and put up with that daily unless they're an NHS Volunteer or shopping for someone else. I'm actually slightly flummoxed you think they are in any significant numbers.
It shouldn’t be necessary to be going to the supermarket more than once or twice a week, yet some people are going there daily. Most of my road for a start - and yes I know they’re doing it as I see them walking past with shopping bags or unloading them from the car.

Perhaps the queues will put a stop to this as people find it an unpleasant experience, but then we get the situation like with the empty honeypot sites - “there’s no one there so it’s not a problem if *I* visit”...
 

Qwerty133

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The other thing that people are missing about queuing to get into supermarkets is that shops are seemingly faster when you do get inside without the trolleys full of kids seemingly abandoned in the middle of aisles, husbands idly standing around on their phones while the wife shops and pensioners deciding the bread aisle is the perfect place to stop for a lengthy catch up with an acquaintance they happened to have bumped in to. The need for social distancing has actually made supermarket shopping much more pleasurable even if it does now require queuing to enter.
 

Solent&Wessex

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Queuing for any length of time to get in the supermarket might not seem so bad in this nice warm, sunny, dry weather.

Just wait to it's absolutely lashing down with rain non stop, and blowing a hooley, and you are stood in a snaking queue round the car park waiting to get in for your weekly shop!

For shift workers then the queues can be a pain even if once a week. I work shifts. I've just started 7 late shifts in a row. I used to do my shopping in the 24 hour supermarkets on the way home from work in the middle of the night. I now can't do this so a lot more thought has to go in to what you buy, where and when and getting up early and going before work one day doesn't always work as the queue time can be uncertain and despite claims to the contrary stock levels are not back up to normal so often trips to different shops are required to get things which other places have sold out of.
 

Bletchleyite

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The other thing that people are missing about queuing to get into supermarkets is that shops are seemingly faster when you do get inside without the trolleys full of kids seemingly abandoned in the middle of aisles, husbands idly standing around on their phones while the wife shops and pensioners deciding the bread aisle is the perfect place to stop for a lengthy catch up with an acquaintance they happened to have bumped in to. The need for social distancing has actually made supermarket shopping much more pleasurable even if it does now require queuing to enter.
A couple of things that would help the queueing situation would be supermarkets publishing online their busy times and potentially even allowing some element of pre-booking of specific times (or if you choose not to you can still rock up and queue).
 

Qwerty133

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A couple of things that would help the queueing situation would be supermarkets publishing online their busy times and potentially even allowing some element of pre-booking of specific times (or if you choose not to you can still rock up and queue).
I'm not convinced that it would be a good thing to reduce the queuing. The need to queue to get into shops is almost certainly helping people self police which visits are actually essential (the vast majority of people wouldn't queue for any length of time to purchase a chocholate bar which means anyone who is willing almost certainly sees chocolate as essential for whatever reason). It is also likely that those most able to queue would also be most able to book slots for popular times as they have nothing better to be doing with their time.
 

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