Fears of a possible countrywide lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic has spurred some Bloemfontein residents into panic buying as they try to stock up on various basic goods for their households.
Although leading retail outlets have criticised the move saying it’s unnecessary as there is enough stock, some shoppers say they would rather err on the side of caution and ensure they have the basics for their families.
Some of the goods fast disappearing from the shelves include; sanitisers, toilet paper, vitamin tablets, tinned foods, soap and other daily products.
“We don’t know where this thing (coronavirus) is going to take us,” said one customer who only preferred to be called Johannes.
“We may be told to stay indoors for a long time. We are just preparing for the worst, hoping it never comes,” he added.
Another customer who chose not to be named felt it wasn’t fair to be told not to stock up in the face of the global health scare.
“What will I do when we are told to stay home and I have nothing to eat in the house? It’s not fair. We are simply preparing. We won’t finish everything,” said the customer.
However, some people feel the panic buying is unwarranted as the situation in the country doesn’t require such action yet.
They said panic buying could actually motivate some businesses to hike prices due to the artificial demand, resulting in many failing to afford the basics.
Pick n Pay chief executive officer Richard Brasher criticised panic buying saying customers should not depart from their usual shopping patterns and resort to hoarding.
“I want to encourage all customers to shop in their usual way, and resist the temptation to stock up beyond what they need. We have an excellent supply chain and an excellent team of suppliers. We will be able to maintain a good and steady supply of food and other products in our stores,” said Brasher in a statement posted on the company’s website.
He indicated if customers continue shopping the normal way, there would be no need for people to be limited in terms of what they can buy.
Brasher said clearing all goods from the shelves is unfair on customers who can only buy their groceries when they get paid and urged people to be reasonable when they shop.
“We also know that, even without any disruption from coronavirus, many South Africans are struggling to make ends meet in a depressed economy. Rest assured we will never increase the prices of key products just because they are in particular demand during challenges like the coronavirus outbreak,” he added.
The Shoprite Group also appealed to customers to only buy what they need as they are opposed to stockpiling. Group CEO Pieter Engelbrecht assured customers that they were doing everything in their power to restock shelves as quickly as possible and that warehouses have stock available
“I appeal to our customers to please 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,” said Engelbrecht in a statement also posted on the group’s website.