Britain’s Biggest Grocers Urge Shoppers to Stop Stockpiling

British food retailers have written a joint letter to their customers asking them to “buy responsibly” in the wake of shoppers stockpiling over fears about coronavirus.

Twelve of Britain’s biggest grocers published the appeal in advertisements in national newspapers on Sunday and will again on Monday. Under the title “Working to Feed the Nation,” they reassured shoppers about steps being taken to ensure adequate supplies in stores and asked them to be considerate: “We understand your concerns, but buying more than is needed can sometimes mean that others will be left without. There is enough for everyone if we all work together.”

The supermarkets behind the letter include the “Big Four” — Tesco Plc, J Sainsbury Plc, WM Morrison Plc and Asda Group Ltd — as well as the discounters Aldi and Lidl. Other retailers signed up include Marks & Spencer Plc, online grocer Ocado and Waitrose.

The U.K.’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Sunday he welcomed the retailers’ letter and that the government is “confident” Britain’s food supply would remain resilient.

The spread of the coronavirus across Europe, which is now the epicenter of the pandemic according to the World Health Organization, has fueled the urge to stockpile. Tesco, Britain’s largest grocer, has already had to move to restrict sales of antibacterial products, dried pasta, long-life milk, children’s medicines, water and tinned vegetables to five items a person in stores. Other grocers have restrictions in place too.

Earlier this week, the government also eased time restrictions on delivery trucks in built-up areas so supermarkets can restock their shelves at night.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive officer of the British Retail Consortium, the industry trade body, said U.K. grocers are working “incredibly hard” to keep shops well-stocked but added: “In the face of unprecedented demand as a result of coronavirus, food retailers have come together to ask their customers to support each other to make sure everyone can get access to the products they need.”

— With assistance by Greg Ritchie

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