LONDON (Reuters) - There is no need for Britons to panic buy groceries after the government imposed new restrictions to stem a second wave of COVID-19, the boss of Tesco TSCO.L, the UK's biggest supermarket chain, said on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the British people on Tuesday to work from home where possible and ordered restaurants and bars to close early to tackle a spike in the pandemic, with new restrictions likely to last six months.
That prompted speculation over whether there could be stockpiling, or panic buying, of groceries similar to that seen in March when supermarket shelves were stripped bare, leading to the rationing of certain items.
However, Tesco Chief Executive Dave Lewis said there was no need for this as food supplies were plentiful.
“The message would be one of reassurance. I think the UK saw how well the food industry managed last time, so there’s very good supplies of food,” he told Sky News.
“We just don’t want to see a return to unnecessary panic buying because that creates a tension in the supply chain that’s not necessary. And therefore we would just encourage customers to continue to buy as normal.”
Lewis said he did anticipate there would be some small increases in stockbuilding by households.
On Tuesday, Giles Hurley, the CEO of Aldi UK, Britain’s fifth-largest supermarket group, emailed customers to reassure them following Johnson’s address.
“Our stores remain fully stocked and ask that you continue to shop considerately. There is no need to buy more than you usually would,” he said.
Analysts are sceptical that another round of panic buying will materialise and also believe supermarkets are much better prepared for any possible spike in demand.
“We believe that the public has more confidence in its food system,” said Shore Capital analyst Clive Black.
Analysts do, however, expect a boon to supermarkets’ trading from the new restrictions on Britain’s hospitality industry.
Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Michael Holden, Estelle Shirbon and Pravin Char
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