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Panic buyers empty shops as minister urges end to stockpiling

Limits introduced for shoppers


‘Shop normally’: Business Minister Heather Humphreys

‘Shop normally’: Business Minister Heather Humphreys

‘Shop normally’: Business Minister Heather Humphreys

Supermarkets are working round the clock and restricting purchases as they compete with panic-buying shoppers to keep their shelves full.

Grocers reported a second day of exceptional demand amid the measures introduced by the Government to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Business Minister Heather Humphreys made a fresh appeal for a halt to stockpiling by shoppers, insisting shelves will be fully stocked this weekend and telling them: "You're wasting your money."

She warned that it would "negatively impact on others, including vulnerable people".

At one of the country's biggest supermarkets, Tesco Clearwater in Finglas, Dublin shoppers queued at the door at 7am opening time yesterday.

By mid-morning, staff - some of whom had been stocking shelves since 4am - were busily unloading trolleys of replacement goods to refill the heavily depleted stocks.

The Government and supermarket chiefs appealed to the public to buy no more than they ordinarily do.

"There's absolutely no need to stockpile. We produce enough food in this country for 40 million people," said Ms Humphreys.

"We may be in an abnormal situation but we definitely have supply. Please, behave normally and shop as you normally would do."

Some supermarkets did bring in limits on how much of an individual product shoppers could buy.

Aldi introduced sales caps across its 142-store network limiting sales of products to a maximum of four units per brand.

The German retailer said the limits were due to "unprecedented demand" for many goods and would "ensure all of our customers have an opportunity to purchase them".

"Our store and warehouse teams are working around the clock to restock and replenish all daily essentials as fast as they can" Aldi said.

Lidl capped purchases at two items per product for some particularly high-demand brands in its cleaning sections.

SuperValu said it might introduce sales restrictions too.

"We would call on shoppers to only purchase items where necessary, as we may have to introduce some restrictions in certain stores out of fairness and particularly in consideration of vulnerable people in the community," said managing director Martin Kelleher.

While business has boomed in the supermarket aisles, the opposite prevails for the rest of retail Ireland.

DublinTown warned that firms dependent on face-to-face trade in the city centre are experiencing sharp declines in footfall - in no small part because many of the city's 250,000 workers have begun to work remotely.

Meanwhile, AIB has scrapped plans to introduce a fee for contactless payments until the Covid-19 outbreak is over.

On Monday, the Irish Independent revealed customers of AIB would no longer be able to avoid banking fees by keeping a certain amount of money in their current account and would in future be charged a fee for contactless payments from the end of May.

Under the plan AIB will charge consumers a 'tap' fee - of 1c. The bank is retaining the 20c fee for payments by chip and pin on debit cards. The move had been described as "a real kick in the teeth" by consumer advocates. And the coronavirus outbreak has pushed many to avoid cash.

Political parties including the Labour Party and Sinn Féin had called for AIB to scrap the plans for the contactless payments.

Irish Independent