“The numbers don’t work”: Supermarkets warn they could struggle to serve everyone with new social distancing measures

UK supermarkets have warned that the shorter opening hours and social distancing measures could mean they will struggle to supply everyone with food.

Social distancing measures, introduced on March 23, have forced supermarkets to only allow a certain number of people in the store at one time, ensure they are at least two metres apart, and open for a shorter time each day.

While the pandemic initially led to a massive 20 per cent boost in grocery sales as the UK began stockpiling, these measures have significantly slowed sales growth.

Industry executives speaking to Reuters have now warned that if these measures remain in place, many may struggle to make purchases at all.

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“The problem is, can you feed 60 million people at the rate you can get people through the stores with that social distancing?” a supermarket executive, who asked to remain anonymous, said.

While online grocery orders have grown significantly during the crisis its capacity is limited, meaning 85 per cent of customers would still need to visit a store.

Another source added: “The current social distancing approach that’s being taken by the supermarkets can’t sell that 85 per cent number.

“The numbers don’t work … you’re either going to have to extend the opening hours, or you’re going to have to change the rules on social distancing.”

The sector’s biggest players are expecting a surge in demand over the coming days as initial stockpiling reserves begin to run out and families stock up for the Easter weekend.

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