Chiswick Sainsbury's Acts To Prevent More 'Panic Buying' Chaos

Extra staff brought in and more stock in place to avoid queues seen last Sunday

Picture: Sky News

Sainsbury's in Chiswick say they have taken on more staff and stocked up to avoid a repetition of the chaos in the store last week. The Essex Place branch attracted national attention last Sunday when a video was broadcast on Sky News showing lengthy queues at the store on Sunday. They are hopeful that the measures will mean the store will operate as normal during the peak time this Sunday afternoon (22 March).

One of the store managers who spoke to said that the difficulties last weekend were 'unprecedented'. Large numbers of shoppers had come at the same time and eventually they had to shut the doors to restrict people coming in because of overcrowding.

He said that on Sundays the store has double its usual sales within the six-hour shopping period. As the handsets ran out, more shoppers were queuing for the sales tills and this put pressure on staff. He said he believed it was due to 'panic buying'.

There were long lines of people with heavily laden trolleys across he middle aisle in the store. The rush occurred early on Sunday afternoon (15 March) .

The incident perplexed many people locally who were unconvinced this was simply a matter of people stocking up due to their concerns about the coronavirus. However the store manager said in his opinion it was due to panic buying and measures have now been put in place on a national level to restrict the purchase of certain items.

Lucy Cartwright who was in the store at the time said, “I had never seen anything like it there before. All the stuff on my list was available as far as I could see but as the aisles were all blocked it was impractical to continue shopping. I just used the self-checkout, where the queues weren’t too bad, to buy what was accessible and then went to the High Road where, to my surprise Marks and Waitrose were really quiet.

“The car park was also really crowded and the barriers were up. They could have stopped more cars coming in when the lines started to build up. I think a lot of people do their weekly big shop there because it is one of the few stores in the area with a big car park. Also delivery slots with the online grocery firms are now often over a week away so people are being forced to do their shopping in person.”

Another unfortunate shopper who was in the store told us, “It was a shambles. There were too few people on the tills and too few tills. Since they have given more space over to self-checkout and the hand held self-service gizmos they have cut the number of staff working the tills so it isn’t a surprise that this happens. It only takes a bit of a hold up for big queues to develop. I don’t think this should have been reported as being indicative of a state of panic in Chiswick.”

Reportedly by about 3.30pm the queues had cleared.

Asked about the points raised about lowering the barriers in the car park to restrict the flow and the lack of manned tills , the manager said that the barriers were open every Sunday and this was intended for people who wanted to browse before the shopping hours came into force. He said they would not bring down the barriers to stop customers coming into the car-park. In terms of the shortage of staff on manned tills, he said there were colleagues who were in self-isolation. The store had taken on extra temporary staff this week and had more stock in place.

He added that in fact the majority of customers had been sympathetic to the difficulties faced by staff and had complimented them on on the good job they were doing. "We cannot predict what will happen but we are better prepared now."

Other supermarkets in Chiswick did not suffer problems on the same scale and the stalls on the High Road selling fresh produce have ample stocks.

Nationally, Sainsbury's has put restrictions in place this week to ensure that more products are on shelf for longer. From Monday 23 March, they are consolidating opening hours and all supermarkets will be open from 8am to 8pm, Monday-Saturday, including those with an Argos store. Sunday opening, Sainsbury’s Local and petrol station opening times will stay the same.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, all Sainsbury's supermarkets will dedicate 8am - 9am to serving elderly, disabled and vulnerable customers.

NHS and social care workers will be able to shop for half an hour before they open, from Monday to Saturday. Anyone with NHS ID will be able to shop from 7.30am to 8.00am on these days.

They say they have prioritised online delivery slots for elderly, disabled and vulnerable customers and have been able to identify a number of elderly and vulnerable customers based on information they have given them previously, and will contact them on Sunday 22 March with information on when slots will become available. Customers who consider themselves to be vulnerable and have not been contacted can visit their Groceries Online website from Monday 23 March for information on how to contact them.

Since early open for the elderly has been introduced there have been complaints from shoppers that age restrictions are not been enforced and younger shoppers are still clearing shelves before the elderly have a chance to buy things.

Sainsbury's said, "We will be working to keep our shelves well stocked and would encourage customers to arrive throughout the hour to prevent queues forming and to help everyone keep a safe distance."

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March 28, 2020