We’re buying more long shelf-life products

Concern among the general public about the COVID-19 outbreak is also impacting on our supermarket shelves. Demand, especially for water, sugar, spaghetti, tinned products and loo paper, has been translated into empty shelves.

Supermarket chain Colruyt says there has been greater demand for products with a long shelf-life including flour, rice and sugar, but washing powder is selling well too.  People just seem to be buying a little more to have greater stocks at home.

Sales at the supermarket are up 10%.  This is not yet sufficient to speak of hoarding. Colruyt director Chris Van Wettere: “We have a supply system that allows us to respond quickly.  At the minute there isn’t a single problem”.

The supermarket has halted offering unpacked samples to customers, though wine and coffee tasters are still available.

Prof Gino Van Ossel specialised in retail says a small group of the population is risk averse: “They think what if I’m quarantined at home.  They hoard first, herd instinct kicks in and other people follow resulting in irrational behaviour.”

“Other people who aren’t worried read about it in the newspaper and the result is empty shelves.  There’s no reason for it and it is not efficient. The paradox is that people who don’t follow the herd could end up with nought.  It’s mass psychology that isn’t based on anything.  There’s no risk we will get through stocks.”

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