Major supermarkets around the country have formed an unlikely alliance to keep shelves stocked for customers during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Coles, Woolworths, ALDI and Metcash will begin coordinating efforts to shore up their grocery supply in stores and online, after the consumer watchdog granted the supermarkets interim authorisation. The new arrangements will ensure consumers have reliable access to groceries and other essential items during the pandemic.
Despite placing strict buying limits on in-demand items like toilet paper, hand sanitiser and now most packaged products, supermarkets have struggled to keep their shelves stocked in recent weeks due to unprecedented demand.
So asked my #Woolworths store if they have actually been stocking toilet paper for past 2 weeks. Yes, but over night. If you are not lined up at 6am pretty much is all gone by 7am. Ever thought about people with families etc, and maybe considered loading shelves at random times? pic.twitter.com/bIiboZpB6N
— The Lorax (@JWhiteWildlife) March 12, 2020
While the authorisation will allow supermarkets to work together on logistics and transport to increase supply, it does not provide provision to fix retail prices for products. Individual stores will continue to set their prices appropriately to the market.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said the new measure was put in place to guarantee the fair and equitable distribution of fresh food, groceries and other household items across the country, including consumers who are vulnerable or live in rural and remote areas.
The interim authorisation will also apply to any other grocery retailers wishing to participate. Suppliers, manufacturers and transport groups will have the option to opt out of any arrangements.
Coles Edgecliff empty shelves this morning pic.twitter.com/JCS8NZwC9r
— john markovic (@johnmarkovic) March 16, 2020
ACCC Chair Rod Sims said the panic buying amid the pandemic had created logistical challenges to the supply chain, which led to product shortages across the country.
“Australia’s supermarkets have experienced unprecedented demand for groceries in recent weeks, both in store and online, which has led to shortages of some products and disruption to delivery services,” Mr Sims said.
“We recognise and appreciate that individual supermarket chains have already taken a number of important steps to mitigate the many issues caused by panic buying. We believe that allowing these businesses to work together to discuss further solutions is appropriate and necessary at this time.”
The Department of Home Affairs has also convened a Supermarket Taskforce, which meets regularly to resolve issues impacting supermarkets.
Picture credits: Daria Ni/ Shutterstock.com