The head of Woolworths has said there is no shortage of food or toilet paper – and supermarket shelves would be full again if people just bought what they needed.
Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci told the ABC’s 7.30 report on Wednesday 85 per cent of food consumed in Australia is grown or produced here.
‘We do not have a supply issue,’ he said.
Mr Banducci said three strong toilet paper suppliers in Australia were running their local factories 24 hours per day.
The only problem is the demand surge, he said.
‘In the last week we’ve been asked to feed 50 million Australians, not 24.5 million Australians and that is the big issue,’ he said.
‘So if everyone just bought what they needed, we would rapidly see a full shop again in ourselves and all of our competitors.’
The supermarket giant has made more sales in the last week than in the week before Christmas, Mr Banducci said.
Woolworths prepares for three months for the Christmas rush, with six weeks spent storing and shelving products.
The nappy aisle at Woolworths Kellyville in Sydney’s northwest. Woolworth’s boss Brad Banducci says the shelves would be full if people just go back to normal buying habits
People queuing at Woolworths in Sunbury, Victoria, as they wait for the store to open
The shelves at Woolworth’s Double Bay in Sydney’s east were stripped as if by locusts. Woolworth’s boss Brad Banducci said on Wednesday there is no need at all for this
Mr Banducci said it’s impossible for any supermarket chain to keep up with the hysteric panic-buying seen over the past few weeks.
Woolworths has set aside a one-hour shopping window from 7am to 8am exclusively for elderly and disabled shoppers, and Mr Banducci said Woolworths has introduced a two-item limit to ensure there is stock for them to buy when they go.
Mr Banducci said the supermarket giant would not put up its prices despite soaring demand as it was sensitive to the needs of customers – but it was running fewer cut-price promotions so as not to worsen the excessive buying.
The news that Woolworths will not hike prices is a welcome relief for shoppers after an economist warned the hoarding crisis could prompt price hikes.
Dr Andrew Hughes from the ANU College of Business and Economics told Daily Mail Australia it was possible consumers would see increases of 20 per cent for high-demand products such as pasta and rice over the next six months.
If the hoarding does not stop, supermarkets may be forced to ration purchases even more than they are now.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison bluntly ordered Australians on Wednesday to stop the bulk buying.
‘Stop hoarding. I can’t be more blunt about it. Stop it. It’s not sensible, it’s not helpful and I’ve got to say it’s been one of the most disappointing things I’ve seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis,’ he said in an address to the nation from Parliament House, Canberra.
Mr Morrison said the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee had advised against the bulk purchase of foods, medicines and other goods.
Woolworth’s boss Brad Banducci said Australia produces 85 per cent of food consumed here and has three strong toilet paper producers whose factories are running 24 hours a day
‘I am seeking Australia’s common sense cooperation with these very clear advisory positions,’ Mr Morrison said.
‘Stop doing it. It’s ridiculous. It’s un-Australian, and it must stop … Also, do not abuse staff. We’re all in this together. People are doing their jobs. They’re doing their best. Whether they’re at a testing clinic this morning, whether they’re in a shopping center, whether they’re at a bank, whether they’re at a train station, everybody is doing their best. So, let’s just support each other in the work that they are doing.’
Mr Morrison called on Australians to ‘call out’ anybody abusing people doing their jobs and ask them to stop it.
‘That’s the right thing to do,’ he said.
Supermarket chains have had to ration toilet paper sales to one pack per customer after frightened shoppers stripped the shelves bare in recent weeks.
Customers fear supply shortages as factories in China where many products are made have ground to a halt, and international shipping has been disrupted.
Consumer psychologist Adam Ferrier, from advertising agency Thinkerbell, forecast the toilet paper craze would be over by the end of last week – but it has shown no sign of abating yet.
Mr Ferrier wrote in Mumbrella that people were not crazy for wanting to stock up in uncertain times.
‘Buying a large supply of toilet paper makes sense in case one has to self-quarantine or look after a quarantined family member,’ he wrote.
‘In times of panic people do what they can to feel safe – even if that’s just buying some loo paper.’
Despite the toilet paper rationing and stern warnings from supermarkets, fears of shortages led to scenes worse than the Boxing Day sales across Australia last weekend.
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 565
New South Wales: 267
South Australia: 37
Western Australia: 35
Northern Territory: 1
Australian Capital Territory: 3
TOTAL CASES: 565
People queued outside stores before they opened.
At a Coles in the Gold Coast suburb of Ashmore, desperate customers tried to slide underneath the barrier even as it was being lifted to open the store.
Some parents reportedly sent young children to line up and buy goods on their own.
Violence erupted at Woolworths Bass Hill in Sydney’s southwest on Sunday when shocked customers filmed a fight between two men over groceries.
The footage showed one of the men being led out of the crowded store before he turned back and ran towards the other customer.
Many people could be heard screaming and yelling in the chaos.
Last week three women were involved fist fight over toilet paper at another Sydney supermarket.
Hysterical screaming broke out as the trio battled in the aisles, with the incident seemingly stemming from a mother and daughter stockpiling toilet paper.
The shocking violence prompted Project host Lisa Wilkinson to make a televised plea on Sunday to the major supermarket chains to set aside the first hour of trade for the elderly, weak and disabled who may be afraid and unable to compete for necessities.
Woolworths immediately stepped up and set aside an elderly-only hour from 7am to 8am to help their most vulnerable customers.