Coles locks up baby formula amid buying frenzy

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Baby formula is now being locked up behind service desks at some Coles supermarkets to prevent shoppers from stripping the shelves and selling products on for a profit, or just stealing them.

It means that mums and dads will now need to ask for baby formula at service desks where customers usually queue to buy razors and cigarettes.

The rule is currently being enforced at some Coles supermarkets in New South Wales where concerns have been raised about buying habits or thefts.

One sign at a Coles store indicated that the popular A2 Platinum baby formula had been moved elsewhere. It read: “Popular lines of baby formula will now be available from the service kiosk to provide equal opportunity for all customers and deter theft.”

It is the latest move by a retailer to halt the frenzy of shoppers who are leaving mothers unable to feed infant children because of a shortage of baby formula.

Countless videos have surfaced in recent months of shoppers visiting their local supermarket or pharmacy in the early hours of the morning to snap up all the formula within minutes.

In some cases, customers have been filmed confronting other shoppers about their motives.

There has been a mixed reaction to the Coles decision on social media. One person wrote: “People who are against Coles locking up baby formula baffle me.”

Another said: “About time the shops started to take some action!”

Why is baby formula in high demand?

The demand is said to be fuelled by the personal shopper ‘daigou’ trade in China, which is seeing thousands of formula tins being shipped overseas by order.

Brands including A2, Bellamy’s Organic and Karicare Aptamil are said to be highly sought after. There are reports of some tins of baby formula being sold for $70 or more online in China. They typically retail for between $25 and $35 in Australia.

Coles told News Corp that tins of baby formula will now be kept on shelves behind service desks, or tagged with Electronic Article Surveillance lids in some stores.

“Coles is committed to ensuring that our customers with a genuine need for infant formula have access to this product,” a spokesperson said.

Woolworths reportedly won’t be following Coles, saying it is not in its policy to have baby formula behind the shelves or locked away.

“Baby formula remains available on the shelf for customers in Woolworths stores,” a spokesman said in a statement to AAP.

“We’re continuing to work with our suppliers to increase the supply of these essential family items.”

Both Coles and Woolworths have a two-tin limit for customers.

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