As Morrisons suggested suspending competition rules between supermarkets to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, The FT argues that the government should look carefully at these proposal, which may lead to wartime rules applying to the grocery industry during the outbreak, such as redirecting supply (The Financial Times £). Morrisons has called for competition rules to be relaxed to work with rivals as supermarkets “move into crisis footing” (The Telegraph). CEO David Potts said supermarkets working together would benefit customers during the pandemic and that “competition law can act as a handbrake” (The Times).
Morrisons has also emerged a stronger supermarket than its rivals in the current situation. It farms and manufacture foods, which leaves it less exposed to supply chain issues, it owns four-fifths of its stores and net debt is just 2.5 times forward ebidta (The Financial Times £, The Times £).
Meanwhile, supermarkets have introduced limits on the number of goods people can buy to try to curb stockpiling as the coronavirus pandemic escalates. Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda will now stop shoppers buying more than three of any particular food item. Sainsbury’s has also said it will prioritise vulnerable and elderly people for online deliveries (BBC, The Guardian, Sky News).
Ocado has shut down its entire website and app until Saturday, after struggling to cope with a staggering demand from shoppers rushing to stockpile (The Telegraph). The online supermarket said it will continue to meet existing orders, but stopped people from placing new ones (BBC).
Amazon is set to temporarily refuse stock of non-essential items to its warehouse to cope with rising demands for household products. The move will last until April 5 and covers all warehouses in Europe and The US (BBC).
British fishers have been hit with a “very severe shock” as export demand and domestic restaurant trade has dried up amid the virus outbreak (The Guardian).
The FT argues that, despite the measures taken by chancellor Rishi Sunak on business rates in the budget and later update to deal with the current crisis, a “fundamental reform is overdue” (The Financial Times £). However, understandably, all major retailers welcomed the decision, with shares in the UK’s largest supermarket on the rise (The Times £).
Deliveroo riders have told Sky News they have been forced back to work when they should be self-isolating, as they are unable to access the support promised by the company. Deliveroo has promised to put in place a “hardship fund” to help staff who is forced to self-isolate, but riders are classed as self-employed and therefore have trouble accessing the required documentation from the NHS to get access to the fund (Sky News).
Shoppers stockpiling food due to the coronavirus outbreak have turned back to processed food, regressing from a switch to healthier alternatives in recent years. Cheerios maker General Mills, saw US retail sales up by “low double digits” in the first week of March and said sales last week were “many times higher” than that (The Financial Times £).
Pubs, restaurants and companies in the hospitality sector are taking urgent action to save up cash, as they take the worst beating from the Covid-19 outbreak. Marston’s is looking to axe its £20m dividend, while Revolution Bars, Mitchell & Butlers and The Restaurant Group all cut or scrapped financial guidance for the year (The Telegraph, The Times).
Companies have started giving out help where they can to deal with the unprecedented crisis, with businesses such as Pret A Manger giving out free hot drinks to NHS staff (The Telegraph). Craft brewer Brewdog meanwhile, have started producing hand sanitiser at its distillery to be given out for free to those in need, as HMRC starts prioritising application from manufacturers to enable them to produce denatured alcohol (The Guardian).