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UK shoppers rush to buy frozen food and freezers amid coronavirus outbreak | Business


Sales of both freezers and frozen food have surged in the UK amid panic buying by Britons worried about the spread of coronavirus.

The online appliance retailer AO.com said freezer sales jumped more than 200% last week as worried shoppers sought to increase their ability to store food.

John Lewis also reported a big uplift in freezer sales amid reports that the frozen food aisles in some supermarkets had been stripped bare by anxious shoppers.

AO.com said freezers were not usually in big demand in March – peak demand is usually before Christmas.

Iceland said sales of frozen food as well as store cupboard staples such as dried pasta and tinned tomatoes had taken off since last week. “Frozen food is the perfect way to stockpile,” said founder Malcolm Walker. “We have no shortage of stock.”

Two other major high street chains also confirmed the surge in freezer sales after Public Health England urged members of the public to plan ahead in case they had to self-isolate for a couple of weeks.

Richard Harrow, chief executive of British Frozen Food Federation, said its members were reporting increased demand but most companies would have three to four weeks worth of stock which would be able to flow rapidly into stores.

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“The industry is well placed to respond to a peak of demand,” said Harrow, who added it was “too early” to say if there would be shortages. “We are only just starting to see this come through. The challenge of our industry is the amount of space people have at home. It’s not like dried pasta or toilet roll which you can put in a cupboard – with frozen food you have to put it somewhere cold.”

“There is going to be some pressure on the supply chain but most companies will be able to respond to that,” said Harrow. “The unknown is if the coronavirus starts to take hold and factories lose workers – but nobody knows that.”

The surge in sales of frozen food and freezers comes amid a spate of panic buying which has forced major retailers to impose restrictions on in-demand goods. Many shoppers were greeted with empty shelves at the weekend after a run on pasta, anti-bacterial wipes, hand soap, toilet paper and children’s medications.

The major supermarkets including Tesco, Asda and Morrisons have already imposed limits on the number of items shoppers can purchase in key product areas such as antibacterial cleaner, toilet paper, hand sanitiser and long-life milk. On Tuesday, Sainsbury’s imposed a limit of five items per customer on cleaning products and hand wash, and two packs of pain relief medication.



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