Sainsbury’s has announced measures to help older and vulnerable shoppers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Shoppers in some supermarket stores have stripped shelves, leaving it difficult for elderly people to get hold of a number of items.
Sainsbury’s measures include giving vulnerable and elderly people priority for online deliveries.
The chain will also follow rivals such Tesco in limiting the number of some products that shoppers can buy.
From Monday 23 March disabled Sainsbury’s customers and those over 70 will be given priority for online delivery slots.
And on Thursday 19 March the first hour of shopping will be dedicated to older and vulnerable people in its 600 UK stores.
Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe said the firm “is trying to make sure everyone has access to the items they need.”
It follows other supermarkets in introducing reserved time slots for the elderly. They include Iceland outlets across the country and all 39 Lidl stores in Northern Ireland.
Sainsbury’s told the BBC that it would consider future dedicated shopping hours “in line with government guidance”, after the one-off on Thursday.
It also announced it would restrict shoppers to buying a maximum of three of any product from Wednesday.
This includes a two-item limit on its most popular goods, including toilet paper, soap and long-life milk.
It previously limited customers to buying five items of the most popular products.
Several other supermarkets have limited the sales of certain products to avoid them selling out completely as demand surges.
Aldi has introduced a four item-limit on all products, while Tesco cut its restriction from five to two items on products such as pasta or tissues.
Getting food onto shelves
Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe added it was “focusing all of our efforts on getting as much food and other essential items from our suppliers, into our warehouses and onto shelves as we possibly can.
“We still have enough food for everyone – if we all just buy what we need for us and our families.”
Mr Coupe confirmed that it was closing its cafes as well as its fish, pizza and meat counters to free up more staff to work on “keeping the shelves as well stocked as possible.”
The move came as Transport Secretary Grant Shapps signed off a temporary relaxation of drivers’ hours rules to deliver goods to stores around the UK.
A Department for Transport statement said the rule change applies only to drivers supplying food and “essential products to supermarkets”.
Sainsbury’s competitor Morrisons said on Tuesday it is creating 3,500 jobs to meet surging demand for its home delivery service caused by the pandemic.
The chain said it would be recruiting 2,500 pickers and drivers and hiring about 1,000 people to work in distribution centres.
In its preliminary results for the week ending 2 February, its chief executive David Potts said retailers were “facing unprecedented challenges” when dealing with Covid-19.