Empty shelves for hand sanitisers are seen at a store in Johannesburg. Picture: MICHELE SPATARI / AFP
Empty shelves for hand sanitisers are seen at a store in Johannesburg. Picture: MICHELE SPATARI / AFP

The Gauteng government has called on retailers to limit the purchases of certain goods following panic buying on Monday after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced measures aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19.

In an attempt to reduce transmission of the pathogen, governments around the world have been encouraging people to self-isolate and work from home, but this has led to bulk-buying of items such as toilet paper, dry foods and sanitizers.

By Tuesday, retailers had already put measures in place to stop people buying every roll of toilet paper in stores.

The panic buying also gave retail stocks a boost.

The JSE food and drug retailers index, which had been down 22% in 2020 to date, notched up a 5% gain on Tuesday, outpacing a 2.67% rise in the broader JSE all-share index.

Shoprite gained 13,63%, Woolworths was up 8.25% and Pick n Pay rose 8.63%.

"Some people in the market have been seeing the pictures
of product lines flying off  the shelves, hearing about the inventory shortages that stores are having due to the panic buying and are perhaps seeing it as an opportunity," Lulama Qongqo, an analyst at Mergence Investment Managers, told Bloomberg.

On Monday, so many consumers flocked to Strubens’ Valley Makro, West of Johannesburg, that the queue snaked outside the store.

Massmart spokesperson Refilwe Boikanyo said that Game and Makro stores were now implementing limits on purchases.

"Our trading brands have started enforcing customer purchasing limits. We are very mindful that stockpiling hurts the most vulnerable consumers in our society who don’t have the discretionary income to make large purchases.

"We are determined to ensure that we are able to meet their needs, both in terms of merchandise availability and affordability, to coincide with their availability of funds, for example, at month-end."

Checkers’s new Sixty 60 delivery app is limiting its deliveries to shoppers in northern Johannesburg and Cape Town to 30 items and three of the same item.

Due to increased demand for deliveries, the service is no longer able to deliver within
60 minutes.

Pick n Pay has put up signs in its stores saying that it will limit certain items to shoppers to 12 or six of each.

David North, group executive: strategy and corporate affairs at Pick n Pay, said: "Where stocks are temporarily low
due to heavy customer demand, we have limited purchases
per customer. We’re seeing a huge demand for certain sanitizing and long-life products. 

A sign in a Pick n Pay branch read: "We’ve set a limit of six units per customer on a small number of these products to ensure that we can offer them to everyone who needs them."

Pick n Pay introduced a shoppers’ hour exclusively for pensioners from 7am to 8am on Wednesdays.

This has a scientific basis as the elderly are most at risk of death or hospitalisation as a result of Covid-19 and need to avoid crowds.

Modelling done by Imperial College in London predicted that isolating people who are 70 and older for three months could reduce deaths in the UK 69%.

Shoprite conducts special committee meetings every 24 hours to report on supply chain disruptions, increased demand for certain products and responses by the business to the disease.

childk@businesslive.co.za