Viraj Shah, who runs a well-stocked kirana store in suburban Mumbai says footfalls in his store have doubled over the past one week. "Consumers are buying products likes soaps, sanitisers and handwash in bulk. In fact, I have run out of stock. People are also buying atta, oil and biscuits in bulk as they are scared that shops will shut down due to the corona virus scare." The panic around COVID-19 spread has led to basic necessities flying off shop shelves. Not only are people opting to stay indoors, they are also stocking for the rainy day. In fact, there is a distinct shortage of products such as disinfectants and hand wash not just in kirana stores but also in modern retail. "Consumers are hoarding basic staples, disinfectants, soaps, handwash and floor cleaners," confirms a senior official of Future Group (Big Bazaar).
A senior Tesco (cash and carry retailer which sells to kirana stores) official also confirms that kirana store owners are hoarding staples, processed foods and hygiene products. "We ran out of Dettol hand wash and soaps in one of our stores. We also exhausted our stock of sanitizers last week." Does this mean that the manufacturers are unable to meet demand, especially for products like sanitizers and hand wash? Albinder Dhindsa, Co-Founder of online grocery retail company Grofers, says that there is some delay in ramping up supply of these products, but he rules out shortage of supply. "The supply as of now is manageable, but if this scenario continues for over three months, there could be issues," says Dhindsa.
The Tesco official says that earlier kirana stores used to keep limited assortment of sanitizers and handwash, but now there is a beeline for these products. "They only bought limited numbers of 185-200 ml packs of handwash and sanitisers. We never sold much of large handwash and sanitizer packs, that's changed now. I can see kirana retailers desperately wanting to buy larger pack sizes of these products, especially in the last fortnight." The Tesco official says that earlier at any given point of time they used to have four weeks of stock for these categories which has now reduced to about a week. "However, the suppliers are not falling back. They have confirmed the pipeline of supply for the next few weeks," he adds.