Grocery Shopping & Covid-19
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in early March 2020, supermarkets around the world have remained open as the main provider of food essential goods, while the majority of other businesses have shut down or moved to online trade. Here in Australia, supermarket chains have experimented with a number of different delivery models, but ultimately, all supermarkets have remained physically open by implementing in-store Covid policies, such as restricting the maximum number of customers in a store, or enforcing a mandatory face covering policy .
Whilst these company policies should be applauded for their effectiveness, supermarkets still remain one of the highest risk venues for COVID-19 transmission. In the last 7 days since writing this blog (8/07/21 – 15/07/21) 70 out of the 373 case locations in NSW have been supermarkets (Coles, Woolworths, IGA, Aldi, Harris Farms) .
Another frightening trend we have seen develop since the beginning of the outbreak has been the increase in “panic buying” and hoarding. The phenom of the toilet paper crisis of 2020 affected not only Australia, but countries around the world. A number of leading psychologists have studied this behaviour and determined that this was not driven out of a world-wide loo roll manufacture shortage, nor an increase in consumer requirement (the runs aren’t a common side effect of the spicy cough).
The cause that drove the toilet paper crisis was much more primal, fear, and a clear example of herd mentality, stirred up by social media and news coverage. Customers seeing the empty aisles in supermarkets didn’t help either.
Prof Debra Grace from Griffith University explains "What you've got to remember is that when 50 packs of toilet paper rolls disappear off shelves, you really notice it because they take up so much room," "It's much more noticeable than say 50 cans of baked beans or hand sanitiser disappearing ."
It’s this monkey see, monkey do attitude that has already led to a second wave of shortages in the wake of the NSW lockdown in July 2021. If you see others hoard toilet paper, that may make you worried that panic buying, regardless of whether it is justified, will lead to actual shortages. In response to this behaviour, both Coles and Woolworths introduced a 2 pack per person limit.
This all begs the question, what would have happened if Australia had a reliable grocery delivery mechanism during the pandemic? How many transmissions could have been avoided if Australians could receive their shopping at home? Would hoarders be sitting on pallets of unused TP if they had not been in store to see their neighbour grab that last pack of 24 rolls off the shelf?
At VOLY, we demand answers to these questions! By delivering the full range of groceries in under 15 minutes can we shift the transmission trends here in Sydney? Will we avoid another toilet paper crisis when customers know they can receive an emergency roll in time when they need it? We think we can, but only time, and you the consumer, can tell.
Visit us at getvoly.com to follow our journey (or join it).
1. Plos One, Modelling COVID-19 transmission in supermarkets using an agent-based model - https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0249821
2. Latest COVID-19 case locations and alerts in NSW, accessed 15/07/21 - https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/covid-19/Pages/case-locations-and-alerts.aspx
3. BBC News, Coronavirus panic: Why are people stockpiling toilet paper? - https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-51731422