South Africa’s biggest food retailer points to unprecedented demand – but pleads to stop stockpiling

The Shoprite Group, the largest food retailer in South Africa with a R150.4 billion turnover and a 30% market share, is appealing to customers to only buy what they need in the wake of concerns over coronavirus-linked stockpiling.

It assured customers in a statement on Tuesday (17 March), that it is doing everything in its power to restock shelves as quickly as possible and that warehouses have stock available.

The retailer’s message comes after reports of panic buying in the country, as consumers fear quarantine as a result of president Cyril Ramaphosa declaring a national state of disaster on Sunday.

“The gaps which are now evident on our shelves and those of other supermarkets are because of the unprecedented demand as a result of fear over the effect of the coronavirus, but we have new stock arriving regularly and we are working around the clock to keep shelves stocked,” Pieter Engelbrecht, chief executive officer of the Shoprite Group said.

“Customers can be assured that we work with suppliers locally and across the globe to track and monitor orders and shipments to make the necessary provision for the current increase in consumer demand in sanitary, hygiene and baby products, dry pasta, UHT milk and some tinned vegetables.”

Engelbrecht said that the company has also increased orders, “are sourcing new and additional suppliers and our warehouses have sufficient stock to replenish our store shelves.

“The unprecedented demand has made it difficult to eliminate gaps immediately on the shelves but we are working tirelessly to fill those shelves as quickly as possible from our warehouses.”

The chief executive appealed to customers to think before they buy and only buy what their families need, so that others are not left without much-needed items. “If we all shop as we normally do, our stores will soon return to normal and there will not be empty shelves.

“Only if we all work together will there be enough for everyone.  As retailers we are increasing deliveries to ensure that store shelves are well-stocked again. We ask our customers to please help us to only buy what they need and not stockpile. Unfortunately rationing the sale of certain products will become necessary if consumers don’t adhere to this call,” Engelbrecht said.

He said that the group’s newly launched online and click-and-collect services are at full capacity, adding that staff and suppliers are working day and night to keep the nation supplied.

“We understand consumers’ concerns but appeal to them to support each other to make sure everyone can get access to the items they need. Stockpiling will hit the most vulnerable the hardest,” he said.

Read: South Africans are panic buying because of the coronavirus – but that could lead to further problems

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South Africa’s biggest food retailer points to unprecedented demand – but pleads to stop stockpiling