As Covid-19 began to spread its way around Asia, Europe and soon virtually the entire world, self-isolation has emerged as a necessity rather than a mere suggestion and panic has set in. Food and other staples that are mainstays of the shop shelves were suddenly not there anymore.

The go-to alternatives are often also missing and entire shelves have been left empty. Can supermarkets keep up with the demand and restocking requirements that panic-buying is creating for the duration of the quarantine period?

One school of thought had been that perhaps in these trying times consumers would be purchasing luxury goods to substitute their go-to brands, but with financial constraints at play, it is not feasible even in desperate times to expect consumers to pay an exorbitant amount for items they consider essential.

Initial methods to curb stockpiling habits have seen supermarkets introduce maximum purchase limits on goods, particularly staples such as water, long-life milk and tinned vegetables. However, supermarkets are still having difficulty keeping up with the demand and stocks disappear almost as quickly as they appear.

So, as consumers continue to scrape the barrel for products to substitute those that are not readily stocked, one idea recently put forward is to reduce product ranges offered by stores. With shelves being stripped of items such as toilet roll, hand sanitiser and various medications such as paracetamol at lightning speed, curtailing the ranges offered, although lessening the choices available to the consumer, could help to ensure that only the essential items are on the shelves.

This would provide consumers with necessities and reduce the emergence of unnecessary alternatives. Supermarkets that previously distributed twenty varieties of pasta or hundreds of types of tissue, for example, could instead cut back to only a few varieties of each to make the manufacturing process more efficient and get shelves stocked as quickly as possible to keep up with consumer demand.

Shoppers are not interested choice and variety right now and simply want to find the products they would usually turn-to, reliably stocked at their chosen supermarkets. It remains to be seen if cutting ranges will succeed in creating a more efficient restocking process and also reducing waste during the quarantine period. Shelves would be left free for those essential items and left empty of those that do not satisfy our immediate needs.

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