Jumbo packs, bundled packs and multi-stock keeping unit packs have been in huge demand over the last couple of days. Increased buying over the weekend has resulted in sales for retailers surging by 30-40 percent against regular sales.
"We have received over 300 orders in the last two days for things like sugar, jaggery, rice and other staples. We are not equipped to cater to this sudden spike in demand. Deliveries will be delayed by 3-4 days," said an owner of a kirana store who does home delivery of staples.
With the spread of coronavirus resulting in malls, theatres, school and colleges being shut for the next few days, there is a fear among people that grocery stores could also shut shop in the near future.
Major buying activity is shaping up in metros like Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore that have seen a higher number of coronavirus cases than the rest of the country. "We have not been able to re-stock SKUs at the pace that buying is taking place. Restocking typically takes a day or two as the products need to be ordered from the distributor. We typically have a buying cycle which has been disrupted owing to this sudden spike in demand," said a store manager at a leading supermarket chain in Mumbai.
Will stocks run out?
Retailers say that the spike in demand has only been in key metros and therefore it is unlikely for stocks to completely dry out. "There may be some shortage in popular SKUs like prominent brands of biscuits, noodles. But on a cumulative basis, it is unlikely that stores will completely run dry of product categories," said an industry official.
Retailers are also working on moving around SKUs from other stores to metros where they are anticipating high demand in the coming days.
Future Retail has seen daily essentials moving faster than usual in affected areas. Trent Hypermarket said that they are "experiencing high demand for the last couple of days across stores. We are prepared to meet these demands. Our colleagues in stores and suppliers are all working hard to make sure we have adequate stocks on shelves for our customers."
"Consumers need to understand that panic buying is not the solution. There is a huge rush at stores and managing the number of people at stores is more concerning. It also puts everyone at high risk. We are thinking of implementing a token based system where we cap the number of people in the store per hour. This could be a good way to regulate crowds," said an industry official who did not want to be named.
No need to panic
Keep calm and shop. That's the message grocery retailers want to share with consumers. Retailers are working on up-stocking shelves with daily essentials. They are also replacing non-essentials available in the store with what consumers absolutely need. This will ensure there are adequate stocks for everyone.
"There is unlikely to be an issue of supply unless distribution centres get affected. Companies already have enough inventory to push into the market. Part of it is because there has been a demand slump over the last few months. In case things get worse we always have the option of getting additional stocks through third party manufacturers," said an official from an FMCG company.