Examples of good news during the coronavirus crisis have so far been few and far between.
There have been tales of heroism from store workers across the country as retailers battled to keep shelves filled and customers, including the most vulnerable in society, supplied with essential food and hygiene products. To those workers, I continue to salute you.
From a business point of view, it has been a truly unsettling time. For all the extra sales enjoyed by grocery retailers, there has been the devastation reaped upon the hospitality sector and the wholesalers who supply it.
Whichever way you look at it, this has been a truly historic month for the UK food and drink sector. According to Kantar, supermarket sales reached £10.8bn in the past four weeks, up 20.6% on last year.
Speaking to retailers last week, there was the feeling, however, that the enormous pressure being felt by retailers due to this huge spike in buying was beginning to ease. It was therefore heartening to see that today several retailers – Aldi, Lidl, Morrisons and Waitrose – are beginning to ease the restrictions placed on the number of products shoppers can pick up in-store.
The moves suggest several factors at play. A tailing-off of the stockpiling witnessed at the beginning of the month; the message that there is plenty of food in the supply chain finally getting through; as well as government instructions to only leave home when completely essential. Perhaps, also, the vital social distancing measures installed by retailers are making shoppers realise that trips to supermarkets or local c-stores are not something people should be doing every day any more.
Hopefully we will see stock levels and shopping behaviour return to something approaching normal, or at least a new normal. We will need to because there are plenty more challenges coming down the line for the industry in the next few months. Will there be enough people to pick UK crops? How will suppliers and retailers manage increasing levels of absenteeism as more people are forced into self-isolation? How will international supply chains hold up?
In order to tackle these challenges and plenty more besides, the whole industry needs to be able to move on from panic buying, accidental stockpiling, or whatever we choose to call it.
Follow Ronan on Twitter: @ronyhegs