Grocery CEOs use science to cure Coronavirus panic buying

The UK’s ‘big thee’ grocers have injected a healthy dose of behavioural science into their Covid-19 customer comms in a bid to immunise their stores from panic buying.

Rather than simply saying “don’t panic”, the stores have taken the unusual step of emailing individual shoppers to reassure them of product availability.

mike CoupeMike Coupe, CEO of Sainsbury’s, emailed shoppers saying the grocery giant had “ordered more stock of essential items…put more capacity into warehouses and set limits on a small number of items, including some cleaning products, soap and pain relief”.

“Avoid coronavirus panic buying”
He also went on to ask customers to help elderly and vulnerable friends, family and neighbours with their shopping if possible. He added: ‘If everyone shops normally, there will be enough for everyone’.

This reassurance messaging was echoed by the CEOs of Tesco and Asda in similar emails from their CEOs to customers.

Roger Burnley, CEO of Asda, wrote to customers during what he called “worrying times” to “personally reassure them” that Asda is working hard to keep shelves stocked.

He wrote: ‘We’re working around the clock to make sure we’re doing everything we can to keep products available – and in some cases, such as with hand sanitizer, cleaning products and baby formula – we have implemented a limit on the number of items that can be purchased to make sure everyone can get what they need. I’d also ask that you try to shop responsibly and not buy more than you need so that everyone, including the vulnerable, have access to the essentials.”

Self-isolation and grocery delivery

Burnley urged online shoppers who are self-isolating to flag this up in the ‘other information’ field of their online order form so that their order can be left on the doorstep. He added that drivers were being issued with sanitiser spray to keep shopping and totes infection-free.

Burnley revealed that Asda is rationing sanitizer, cleaning products and baby formula and urged customers to “shop responsibly and not buy more than you need so that everyone, including the vulnerable, have access to the essentials”.

The personalised messaging follows a joint letter released to the press from 12 of the country’s biggest grocers urging responsible shopping habits.

Meanwhile a Belfast branch of frozen food retailer Iceland has decided to reserve the first hour of trading for elderly shoppers.

Covid-19 and older shoppers

The manager of the Kennedy Centre in Belfast said: “Could the wider public please respect this hour and understand that this time is allocated for elderly people only. Iceland appeal to people’s better nature when realising who needs priority.”

Since being published on Sunday, the Facebook post has garnered 4,600 reactions, 7,000 shares and hundreds of comments.

“Well done Iceland for taking a stand. Well done for now trying a different approach to make sure those most vulnerable are able to get a chance to buy what they need,” one person wrote.

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