While panic shopping hasn’t kicked in just yet in The Bahamas due to the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the owner of the largest food store chain said already some popular sanitizing products have been sold out.
Super Value owner Rupert Roberts said Lysol spray products and hand sanitizers sold out at his food stores two weeks ago; and while more are being ordered because of the high demand due to the coronavirus, there is a regional supply shortage.
“Panic shopping hasn’t started as yet, although last week the movement of products like the hand sanitizers, Lysol sprays and so on, that was a big, big increase. We sold out,” he told Guardian Business yesterday.
“Two weeks ago, we sold out of hand sanitizer. We had very large 68 ounces, they went like wildfire. Then people started coming in buying the small ones by the case, and we shouldn’t have let them do that but at that time we had more than we could sell.”
Super Value’s Director of Purchases Rashel Sands added during the two-person interview, “Right now we have a shortage on Lysol. No, we don’t have any in stock.
“Now the agency ensured that we will have some coming in, Thompson Trading, by the end of the month.”
Sands said the company has a limited supply of Lysol products from an alternative source that is being held at the dock, which she hopes to have cleared and delivered to the company’s warehouse by the weekend.
“All of those products, we’ve ordered all we can, but they are in short supply in the U.S. and we’re not going to get what we ordered,” Roberts said.
Given that hand sanitizer is such a hot commodity at the moment – with international media reporting that packs of Purell hand sanitizer were being sold for as much as $350 on Amazon.com – Roberts said he is restocking with about 500 units (cases) of small 8 oz. hand sanitizers.
“Five hundred cases of hand sanitizer to Super Value in this crisis will be a day’s supply,” Roberts added.
He said the company has also reordered the larger half-gallon jugs of hand sanitizers.
“But, maybe I’m going to put a hold on them. A lot of them will be for company use. You see, we have about 25 cashiers and every hour they have to sanitize their hands. They’re handling money. When money is in circulation 60 days every germ on Earth is on it. So, they have to sanitize their hands to protect themselves and to protect you. And of course, we sanitize the door handles and the shopping carts, anything that the public touches,” he said.
A viral video released by the Jamaica Gleaner news agency following the announcement of that country’s first case of COVID-19 showed panicked shoppers clearing grocery store shelves in preparation for possible quarantine.
Roberts said while he currently has a month’s supply of food and grocery products in his warehouse, he is working with the government to increase that substantially.
“We are hoping for the best but planning for the worst,” he said.
“We have about a five-week inventory. We are talking to government authorities and we’re building that up to four months. We’re adding another three-month supply on that. You can only bring in produce three times a week as long as they keep the border open. But we have arranged with our suppliers and the shipping companies that if we have a border closure, governments in the area, I don’t know if our government signed on to it, but I’ve been told by our supplier, that the ships will operate.
“We will move the product at night, for a couple of reasons, one would be traffic. Because we’re bringing in an extra three-month supply of non-perishables, so if an outbreak were to hit the dock suddenly, we can’t do the duty entry, the government can’t process it and there would have to be special arrangements for all of these. The shipping companies have made special arrangements with government too.”
In the meantime, Roberts said if Bahamian shoppers don’t see their preferred trademarked brand on store shelves, the company still has a lot of other brands in the warehouse.
“We’re full of Pine disinfectant and we’re full of other disinfectants,” he said.
Sands added, “There’s a high demand for certain disinfectant sprays and cleaners and stuff like that. Especially rubbing alcohol.”
Up to press time, The Bahamas did not have any recorded or suspected cases of COVID-19.