Nova Scotia

Canada's big grocers say there's enough food stock to go around

Amid panic buying due to concerns around the spread of COVID-19, Canadian grocers are assuring customers they have enough supply to go around for most products.

'If you don't see it today, the product will be there tomorrow,' says Loblaw executive Michael Doucette

Shoppers stock up at a Costco in Port Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, March 13. (Yvette Brend/CBC)

Amid panic buying due to concerns around the spread of COVID-19, Canadian grocers are assuring customers they have enough supply to go around for most products.

"The supply chain and the food supply chain is good," Michael Doucette, the Atlantic Canadian regional vice-president of operations for Loblaw, told CBC News.

"We've opened up daily deliveries to help smooth out those peaks and valleys."

Loblaw runs franchises across Canada including No Frills, Shoppers Drug Mart, Atlantic Superstore, Dominion, Provigo, Zehrs, T&T Supermarket and Your Independent Grocer.

But Doucette said items like sanitizers, hand sanitizers and toilet paper are going to be harder to restock.

Empty shelves are seen at a Superstore grocery store in Richmond, B.C., on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

He said food products are on the way though.

"If you don't see it today, the product will be there tomorrow," he said.

Doucette said vendors are making extra deliveries and pushing product out faster. He said stores have been seeing "double business on a given day."

On Tuesday, Loblaw and Sobeys announced designating a special hour for seniors and people with disabilities to shop at its banner stores like Atlantic Superstore.

PC Express, a grocery pickup service, is now free of charge, Doucette said.

"You don't have to get out of your car, you can just open your trunk and we'll put them right in the trunk if you want and say, 'Hey, have a good day,'" he said.

"If you're worried about interaction or nervous in any way, the transaction is easy and smooth."

Doucette said in the past few weeks, there's been an uptick in the pickup service. He expects it will become even more popular.

As a food business, Doucette said hygiene is a key part of the company's operations, but said the company is also following advice from federal and provincial authorities.

In a statement to CBC News, Costco said buyers and suppliers are working to ensure product is available. The company outlined steps it is taking to keep employees and customers safe:

  • Social distancing.
  • Sanitizing surfaces more often, including shopping cart handles, merchandise shelves, front-end belts and registers.
  • Placing purchase limits on certain items. The company didn't specify what products the restrictions apply to.

In an email to customers on Monday, Sobeys said it viewed its stores as an essential service.

Toilet paper has been a popular item at grocery stores since the COVID-19 pandemic reached Canada. This photo was taken at a Sobeys grocery store in Halifax on March 12, 2020. (Richard Woodbury/CBC)

"In the 113-year history of our parent company, we've never seen so many customers visit our stores," said president and CEO Michael Medline.

He said he has "great confidence" in the supply chain.

Sobeys said staff who are sick are staying home, food samples have been cancelled and cleaning measures have been "turned up a notch" in high-traffic areas.

Sobeys operates a number of chains across Canada, including Safeway, IGA and FreshCo. 

About the Author

Anjuli Patil

Reporter

Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team.

With files from David Burke

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