Panic buying

Since the first appearance of the K-19 virus in the UK I have not seen a single toilet roll on supermarket shelves.  Pasta products, baked beans and eggs have also virtually disappeared.  Yesterday I was able to buy the penultimate six-pack of eggs from my local store, following a customer who took three boxes.

In today’s news it was announced that supermarkets are writing to customers urging them to moderate their buying to ensure that there are sufficient stocks for all.

As customers we cannot control the sufficiency of stocks, but the supermarkets could go a long way to help.

For example, if in our weekly shopping we have two packs of indigestion pills and one pack of pain-killers, the third item is rejected because it exceeds the store policy on medicines.

Likewise, if I try to buy a bottle of “alcohol-free” cider, it must be verified that I am 18 or over.

It should not be too difficult to add the bar-codes for shortage items to the “restricted numbers per customer” list, maybe requiring supervisor-authorisation for exceptional circumstances.

Furthermore, modern logistics reordering software can quickly identify on a store-by store level where demand exceeds supply.  These items could be automatically transferred to the restricted purchase list if immediate resupply is not available.

I write from experience, having worked for nearly forty years in the development of such systems from manual to IT-based versions.

I suggest that, rather than waste time and effort asking customers to be nice, that effort could be devoted to adapting a “quick and dirty” solution within the existing computer systems.

Of course, it can go wrong.  I well remember the massive overstock in the UK of chainsaws exactly one year after the 1987 storm and supermarkets bursting at the seams with barbecue charcoal the year after an unseasonably hot Easter, based purely on seasonal demand!  Fortunately, modern replenishment logistics systems have been vastly improved in the last thirty years.

As a final thought, if anyone buying more than eight tins of beans in a mainstream supermarket had to have the purchase approved by a supervisor, the silent glares of their fellow customers ought to have some effect – or is that just a British thing?

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General Whiskers

Wargaming butterfly (mainly solo), unpainted model figure amasser, and Historical Re-enactor of the black powder era.

3 thoughts on “Panic buying”

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