Coronavirus: Food shortages unlikely despite Canadians’ grocery panic, experts say

Empty shelves. Lines of shopping carts snaked through aisles. “Sorry for the inconvenience” signs posted where towers of toilet paper should be.

Canadians are stocking up amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. While the buying isn’t totally unnecessary, worrying about a shortage of shipments is, experts agree.

“There’s no evidence of shortages,” said Diane Brisebois, president and CEO of the Retail Council of Canada.

“It’s normal to misinterpret seeing empty shelves and assuming that’s because the products are no longer available. In 99 per cent of the cases, it’s simply because the retailer has sold out of the quantity the store had at that time.”

The challenge grocers are facing is rethinking replenishment strategies. Brisebois said store managers are likely doing this on the fly.

“Grocers know how much they sell of a product in their store for a period of time, be it March or April. That’s how they know how much to stock based on product and region,” she said.

“So based on prior patterns, they may have thought 80 per cent of a product would be sold over five days in a certain region of the country, and then all of a sudden, those assumptions based on analytics are thrown out the window because of these unusual circumstances.”

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