Supermarkets impose new limits on items as virus spreads

It's not just toilet paper - Woolies is now restricting customers to a maximum 2kg bag of rice.

Hand sanitiser can only be bought behind the counter, with a limit of two per transaction.

As the panic buying over the COVID-19 coronavirus continues, the supermarket giant has urged customers to be patient and warned more limits may follow.

"These are unusual and challenging times," Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci said.

"We know it can be frustrating when we don't have the products you need, or when delivery or pick-up windows are filled more than usual.

"We're working very closely with our suppliers to get products onto shelves as quickly as we can. The makers of Kleenex, Sorbent, Quilton and Woolworths own range of toilet paper have all increased their production to meet this very unusual demand.

"The makers of Kleenex are now manufacturing 24 hours, 7 days a week at their Millicent, SA factory, as are Sorbent in their NSW and Victorian facilities.

"And the makers of Quilton have tripled their normal production across their factories in Queensland, NSW and WA.

The shelves of many supermarkets in Brisbane are running low on toilet paper, tissues and hand sanitisers due to panic buying caused by the coronavirus.
The shelves of many supermarkets in Brisbane are running low on toilet paper, tissues and hand sanitisers due to panic buying caused by the coronavirus.

"It's worth noting that the vast majority of products aren't affected and most stores aren't seeing significant shortages.

"But to make sure everyone has access to essential items, we've introduced some commonsense limits to a few products.

"We've limited toilet paper to 4 packs per transaction and large packs of rice (2kg and over) to 1 per transaction.

"Where available, hand sanitiser is now at the Customer Service Desk and limited to 2 per transaction."

 

Rice supplies were thinner than usual around the country.
Rice supplies were thinner than usual around the country.

 

Mr Banducci warned that other product lines also may be affected.

"If we see new shortages, we may introduce other limits," he said.

The race to stock up on essential goods including toilet paper and household staples has resulted in chaos at supermarkets across the country as the global outbreak of coronavirus continues to spread.

And White King, who manufacturers bleach and disinfectant in Shepparton in regional Victoria, is the latest business to run out of warehouse stock - it's the first time in its 60-year history.

Woolworths' director of group replenishment Paul Harker warned customers not to rush to stores and grab copious supplies of goods including toilet paper.

"There is no need for customers to panic buy essential pantry and household staples in Australia," he said.

"While we've experienced short-term challenges due to unprecedented demand our suppliers are ramping up deliveries and production to maintain stock availability for our customers."

In the past week the supermarket giant has reported a sharp increase in the need for long-life pantry items such tinned soup, pasta, rice and canned vegetables and household staples including toilet paper.

Household cleaning products are sold out like White King bleach.
Household cleaning products are sold out like White King bleach.


Other popular items flying off the shelves include paper towels, tissues and hand sanitiser.

However, those within the retail industry said the rush on goods has largely been a metro phenomenon and regional and rural shoppers have just being predominantly shopping as normal.

Rival supermarket Coles said they have kept up strong supplies of goods and customers should "only buy what they need".

"Coles is in ongoing contact with suppliers, government stakeholders and transport partners to determine how best to improve availability on popular products, such as long-life pantry staples and healthcare items," a spokeswoman said.

"The vast majority of the products in our range remain available as normal and we encourage customers to buy only what they need.

"We apologise to customers for the inconvenience caused by temporary stock shortages and thank them for their patience."

Empty shelves at Coles, East Village, as Sydneysiders rush to stock up on toilet paper and other supplies. Picture: Twitter
Empty shelves at Coles, East Village, as Sydneysiders rush to stock up on toilet paper and other supplies. Picture: Twitter

On Wednesday, Woolworths also took the unprecedented step of enforcing a quantity limit on toilet paper purchases and Coles followed suit on Thursday.

Coles matched Woolworths in limiting toilet roll purchases to four packs per person.

Both supermarkets have restricted customers to four packs per customer per transaction instore and online.

Costco is limiting customers to two 48-packs of toilet paper, while Aldi is restricting customers to four packs of toilet paper and enforcing a long-standing 10 pack limit on essentials such as long-life milk, tissues, paper towels and hygiene products.

The Australian Retailers Association's Russell Zimmerman urged "consumers to go about their business as usual".

"We're comfortable there's no risk to the availability of food or household essentials; with major retailers maintaining high inventories, if a brand you wish to purchase isn't available today, it'll probably be back on the shelf tomorrow," he said.

"There is plenty of stock in distribution centres to supply retailers of essential items across the country."

sophie.elsworth@news.com.au

@sophieelsworth



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