Coronavirus: Co-op boss issues plea to public to show ‘care, compassion and respect’

Lianna Brinded
Head of Yahoo Finance UK
Trolleys piled high for delivery are as shoppers queue at the checkout of a supermarket in London. (Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)

The boss of Co-op in Central England has issued a plea to customers to show “care, compassion and respect” to its staff amid the coronavirus pandemic leading to panic-buying of goods across the UK.

The retailer, which has 400 food stores and funeral homes across 16 counties, released the statement amid an escalating climate of panic-buying that has seen supermarkets across the country change their opening times, issue an item limit on groceries, and cordon off specific hours of shopping for the elderly and NHS staff.

Read more: Coronavirus: Tesco, Asda, and Sainsbury's announce three-item limit on groceries

“Our colleagues are doing everything they can to ensure our community stores have enough food and goods for everyone,” said Central England Co-op chief executive Debbie Robinson.

“We want to ask everyone who visits us to be kind and treat each other with care, compassion and respect.

“If you’re able to say thank you to our colleagues when you see them, we are sure they would really appreciate the support at this time. Please be kind and respectful to everyone around you.

“I also want to send a big thank you to all of our colleagues working in our stores and homes. You are doing an amazing job helping to feed the nation and I cannot thank you enough for going above and beyond for our communities. Be safe and thank you.”

Co-op announced on 19 March that it has created 5,000 positions for people who lost their jobs to coronavirus. Not only will it be simplifying its recruitment process so successful candidates can start work within days, the permanent jobs will also be on offer across Co-op’s 2,600 stores.

The Co-op is also implementing a temporary limit of two of every product “to help maintain stock levels.” It reassured customers that there are no issues with its “robust supply lines” and that shops are getting daily delivers.

What are supermarkets changing and what are their opening hours?

Further measures announced by UK supermarkets include:

  • Sainsbury’s: It has set aside the first hour of trading in every supermarket from Thursday for elderly and vulnerable customers. Customers with disabilities or aged over 70 will also have priority access to online delivery slots, while cafes, meat, fish and pizza counters will close to prioritise freight capacity for essentials (Sainsbury’s opening hours here).

  • Iceland: Most stores will dedicate their first two hours’ trading to the elderly and vulnerable. CEO Tarsem Dhaliwal also urged customers to “be considerate” to staff (Iceland opening hours here).

  • Tesco: It will close all counter services and cut its 24-hour stores’ opening hours from 6am to 10pm, with overnight staff focusing on restocking stores and supporting online groceries. Vulnerable and elderly shoppers will have priority from 9am to 10am (Tesco opening hours here).

  • Waitrose: It has “reluctantly’ introduced limits per shopper on some of its most in-demand items online “to help ensure that our products are shared fairly.” Its website went down temporarily on Wednesday morning, and hundreds of John Lewis staff have been moved into Waitrose teams (Waitrose opening hours here).

  • Asda: It is closing its 24-hour stores between midnight and 6am and shutting its pizza counters and cafes to prioritise essentials (Asda opening hours here).

  • Aldi: It has imposed a four-item limit on all products because of “unprecedented” demand. In Australia it has limited store hours to ease the strain on staff (Aldi UK opening hours here).

  • Co-op food stores: It is limiting selected products to two per person. (Co-op opening hours here).

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