Morrisons has become the first supermarket chain to reinstate rationing on essential goods after evidence that some customers were stockpiling.
Britain’s fourth-biggest grocer said it was limiting consumers buying products such as toilet roll, disinfectants and bleach to a maximum of three items.
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It comes as the government introduces new measures in an effort to hold back the rising number of coronavirus cases.
Earlier this week, the chief executive of Tesco urged consumers to avoid a “return to unnecessary panic buying”, in an interview with Sky News.
All the major supermarkets had introduced temporary restrictions in March after shelves were stripped bare of essentials such as toilet rolls in the weeks leading up to the COVID-19 lockdown.
The restrictions were slowly lifted as stocks recovered.
But Morrisons revealed on Thursday that it was reintroducing limits after customers began stockpiling soup, pasta and cleaning products.
It revealed the move in response to a Twitter post from a member of the public urging supermarkets to “start putting a stop to bulk buying items”.
Hi Martin. We have seen stocking up on certain products like soup, pasta, cleaning items, etc. Due to this we’re now introducing some max caps into store so we can ensure good availability for all our customers. We’ve already applied some to online orders also 🙂 – Rochelle
— Morrisons (@Morrisons) September 24, 2020
The supermarket said in a tweet that it would introduce caps on in-store purchases to ensure “good availability for all our customers” – and that some caps had already been applied to online orders.
A Morrisons spokesman later told Reuters: “We’ve got decent stock levels but we want to be sure that they are available for everyone.”
Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda have not imposed any new restrictions.
Dave Lewis, the chief executive of Tesco, sought to reassure customers on Wednesday after the prime minister told people to work from home where possible and ordered restaurants and bars to close early to tackle a spike in the pandemic.
Mr Lewis told Sky News: “I think the UK saw how well the food industry managed last time, so there’s very good supplies of food.
“We just don’t want to see a return to unnecessary panic buying because that creates a tension in the supply chain that’s not necessary.
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“And therefore we would just encourage customers to continue to buy as normal.”
Giles Hurley, chief executive of Aldi UK, said in an email to customers this week: “Our stores remain fully stocked and ask that you continue to shop considerately.
“There is no need to buy more than you usually would.”
Meanwhile, Asda said on Wednesday that it was introducing 1,000 safety marshals at its stores to reinforce guidance on wearing face masks and social distancing for shoppers.