Coles boss blames virus ‘frenzy’ for panic buying
A social and international media "frenzy" about coronavirus is driving panic buying of toilet paper and essential groceries, according to the boss of supermarket giant Coles.
Chief executive officer Steven Cain said the chain, which has followed Woolworths with a temporary four-pack toilet paper limit, believed the panic had caused customers to doubt whether stores could keep up with demand.
Some selfish shoppers were also bulk buying essentials and trying to sell them online at inflated prices.
"As you may have seen, the past few days have been challenging for some customers with shortages of selected items, in particular toilet rolls!,'' Mr Cain said in a letter to customers.
"This is due to increased purchases of everyday items by some customers brought about, in part, by an international media & social media frenzy - which then causes other customers to lose confidence in the system and then buy more themselves.
"Australia has an outstanding supply chain and most of our products are sourced from Australia including toilet paper."
Mr Cain said Coles had boosted staff numbers to help restock shelves while suppliers were ramping up production.
"However, in the short term, we have reluctantly chosen to introduce a temporary 4 pack limit on toilet paper to ensure the elderly and those groups at highest risk can still access the everyday products they need, and to reduce likelihood of bulk purchasing which then appear on the internet at a price premium,'' he said.
"I understand the average 4 person family needs around 20 rolls of toilet paper per fortnight, and larger packs contain around 30 rolls meaning 4 packs would total 120 rolls - enough for around 12 weeks.
"We appreciate your business and I know that security of grocery supply is a key concern for all Australians. Through the bushfires I also know that Australia is at its best when we all come together to help each other."
Photos and videos of empty shopping centre aisles and customers clambering for scarce essentials has filled social media in recent days.
Hand sanitiser, tissues hand wash, tinned food and rice are also among items in demand.