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Panic purchases: Coronavirus case sends Greeks to supermarkets

Hardly has the first confirmed case of coronavirus case in Thessaloniki has been announced and the residents of the second biggest city of Greece quickly found their way to to the supermarkets.

They load their carts with staples like pasta, rice, milk, baby and powder milk, toilet paper and detergents. There is high demand also for oil, flour and sugar, while antiseptics have disappeared from the shelves.

“After 1 o’ clock traffic in the store increased by 150% compared to the same period last year,” said a supermarket chain manager in downtown Thessaloniki.

“There are stocks, however, if what is observed in the last few hours continues, then all shelves will soon be empty,” the manager said.

“I have supplied a large amount of frozen products so I wouldn’t run out. I have a large freezer and will fill it. What will I do if the supermarkets are empty. I have to take care,” a 65-year-old pensioner told local media.

The “raid” to the supermarkets started already on Tuesday afternoon, approximately 12 hours before the first coronavirus infection in the country was confirmed.

Did the new went from mouth to mouth? Who knows.

Fact is that big supermarket chains saw an increased activity.

A supermarket executive told Radio Thessaloniki that consumers have doubled their purchases.

“While average amount of purchase is 40 euros, it doubled to 80 euro,” since Tuesday afternoon, the executive said.

He added that they increase staff either in the warehouse or at the cash registers.

Meanwhile, consumers also in Athens – and possibly also in other cities and towns – found their way to the local supermarkets. A friend going to a big chain on Wednesday afternoon said that she saw people coming out overwhelmed with bags full of staff. And this on a Wednesday and not a Friday or Saturday.

Another one told me that she could not find even “frozen spinach” in a big supermarket in the northern suburbs of Athens.

One of my cousins did “preventive shopping, just in case,” as she said. She justified it with “fear the supermarkets may be closed” or “we are not allowed to leave our homes.”

It makes sense, if staff in supermarkets and their suppliers get infected with coronavirus.

Most of the country’s major supermarkets have been on alert since beginning of the week after the outbreak in Italy. Pictures of empty shelves at the Italian supermarket have tang a “bell” in the domestic retailer sector, which is largely beginning to prepare for the virus if it crosses the country’s gates, media reported a day earlier.

With a few exceptions, large retail chains closely monitor the issue and workout plans how to react to possible shortages of stuff.

For the time being, there seems to be no reason that supermarkets would run out of supplies.

Executives from two large supermarket chains stressed that there will be no immediate problem of adequacy and therefore no cause for concern. “What will happen in the next few days is to send increased orders to our main stores,” they said.

PS Only thing Greeks in panic cannot buy are surgical face masks. They have ‘disappeared’ from the market since beginning of the week.

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