The changes the UK's supermarkets are making as demand rises amid coronavirus outbreak

  • Video report by ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi

Britain’s biggest retailers are making more changes in response to high demand amid customer concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.

From today, Sainsbury’s is limiting shoppers to three of any grocery product.

That’s reduced to two for the most in demand items such as toilet roll, soap and UHT milk.

From tomorrow, the first hour of trading in all Sainsbury’s is reserved for elderly and vulnerable shoppers. Iceland is already running a similar scheme.

Asda has now joined Tesco in closing 24-hour stores early each night for restocking and cleaning.

Morrisons today reported “considerable” amounts of stockpiling and asked customers to buy only what they need.

Tesco will start a dedicated shopping hour for NHS staff from this Sunday.

A spokesperson for the supermarket said: “They can come to our large stores one hour before the usual store opening time every Sunday.”

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know

Other changes are coming. Stores are expanding “click and collect” services as a way to utilise online ordering but without the need for home deliveries.

These will run alongside existing delivery options, which have come under increasing pressure.

Some supermarkets can’t now offer delivery slots until next month.

Many supermarkets are closing departments seen as less crucial such as meat, fish and pizza counters.

This allows staff to concentrate on getting more groceries onto shelves.

All stores insist there is enough food in the supply chain but these highly unusual buying patterns have left some shelves empty.

Waitrose on 19 March became the latest supermarket to impose restrictions: three item maximum on groceries and a maximum of two packs of toilet roll per customer buying in shops.

It will also have (from 20 March) a dedicated shopping hour for the vulnerable at the start of the trading day.

The chain is closing all its cafes and free drinks services to free more staff to stack shelves.

Asda from 18 March said all food, toiletry and cleaning products will be restricted to three items per customer.

The Co-Op has restricted the following items to two per customer:

  • hand sanitiser, soap, antibacterial wipes, toilet/kitchen roll

  • non-fresh products such as tinned goods, pasta, rice, long-life milk, sugar

  • baby milk, baby food, nappies and baby wipes.