Bulking up on necessities like toilet paper is unnecessary and hurts the elderly, grocery store managers and shoppers say.
“Nah, I didn’t pick up any toilet paper today,” Anne Bombek, of Simcoe, said after putting some snacks and a large water jug in the trunk of her vehicle in the Simcoe Wal-Mart parking lot. “It kind of bugs me too because I’m legit out of toilet paper.
“Besides, I think it’s kind of crazy what people have been doing. It’s totally unnecessary.”
People across the region from Delhi to Simcoe to Brantford spent last Thursday and Friday stocking up on toilet paper and other supplies in response to the coronavirus pandemic. To get a sense of what people were saying about the bulk buying a Postmedia reporter visited grocery stores in Brantford and Norfolk County on Saturday and Sunday morning.
“The only thing spreading faster than the coronavirus is panic and hysteria and you folks in the media are to blame,” one store manager who asked not to be identified, said. “Although, I have to say it’s mostly social media that’s to blame.
“People are buying far more toilet paper than any human being could possibly use and in my view it’s really not necessary.”
The store manager asked that his name not be used because all media enquiries were to be directed to the store’s head office.
“I have a lot of elderly customers who can’t get around as well as others and when they come into the store, I want to make sure I have what they need,” the manager said. “Right now, it’s hard for me to do that and the only way I can help is to put limits on the amount of purchases.”
In addition, a lot of people don’t realize that the supply chain for retail stores is not equipped for panic purchasing.
“Stores work with ‘just-in-time’ delivery and don’t have a lot of inventory,” the manager said. “Product comes into the store, it’s put on the shelf and then sold.
Once a store runs out of a commodity like toilet paper in a relatively short period of time, it may take a couple of days for the shelves to be restocked, he said.
“I lived through SARS and it wasn’t anything like this,” the manager said. “I think people just really need to chill and think about their elderly neighbours.”
A manager at the Wal-Mart Store in Simcoe declined to comment to Postmedia and referred all enquiries to the store’s head office.
However, customers like Jack and Margaret Barron of Delhi were pleased to comment on the buying-frenzy that over took grocery stores.
“It’s been pretty crazy and I really don’t understand it,” Jack said after putting away some supplies into the trunk of their vehicle. “We’re stocking up on some stuff but only because we have a mother in a nursing home.
“We want to make sure she has enough to keep her going in the event they close the home to visitors.”
Otherwise, there really isn’t any need to be buying groceries and cleaning supplies in bulk the way some people were at the end of the week, Barron said.
Still, while toilet paper seemed to be the big item for most people, store managers say other items were also being purchased in large quantities.
“We’ve sold a lot of canned goods, handy wipes and diapers,” Alex Azzopardi, a manager at Real Canadian Superstore in Simcoe, said. “We also sold a lot of pasta.”
Superstore, like other grocery stores in Brantford-Brant and Norfolk was also extremely busy both Thursday and Friday
Azzopardi too couldn’t understand the panic buying by many people.
Meanwhile, a customer who was picking up diapers among other items at a rural grocery store, had plenty to say upon hearing a Brantford reporter was in town.
“Go back to Brantford and don’t tell anyone we have diapers here,” she said firmly. “You start blabbing about that and soon everyone from Brantford will be coming into town and we won’t be able to get any for ourselves.”
In Brantford, the buying frenzy began Thursday and continued Friday into Sunday morning.
People were lined up at the Wal-Mart in Brantford on Saturday morning waiting for the store to open.
Bread was a big seller, so was pasta, canned goods and large jugs of water.
The pace of shopping, at least at the Brantord Wal-Mart and other grocery stores in the city, had lessened somewhat by Sunday morning when there wasn’t any toilet paper or paper towels left to purchase.
The run on necessities has been so severe Christine Elliott, Ontario’s Deputy Premier and Health Minister, and Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs released a statement on the issue.
“Ontarians can be confident that our food supply is robust and that our food distribution system will continue to operate and remain responsive to the needs of Ontarians,” they said. “Rest assured, we have plenty of food that will continue to reach grocery stores on a regular basis.
“Our food supply chain is one of the strongest in the world and our government remains committed to ensuring Ontarians can access healthy and nutritious Ontario-produced foods.”
They urged people to practise normal grocery buying habits.