Supermarkets report rocketing demand for home deliveries

Calls for online slots to be left clear for at-risk groups

Observing social distancing at a supermarket in Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Observing social distancing at a supermarket in Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

SuperValu and Tesco Ireland have seen demand for online shopping services rocket since the escalation of social distancing practices across the Republic to slow down the spread of coronavirus.

SuperValu described it as “a huge spike”, while Tesco said there had been “a significant increase” in orders on its home delivery services, adding that its drivers and store employees were “working around the clock” to keep up with orders.

Social media users have reported waiting days for available slots, while there have been growing calls for shoppers not to use the services unless they have a special need to do so.

Tesco said it was “endeavouring to prioritise” customers of its grocery home shopping service who are aged 65-plus, adding that it appreciated the patience and support of its customers.

Older customers are more at risk from the severest effects of Covid-19, while Taoiseach Leo Varadkar warned in his emergency television address on St Patrick’s Day that the elderly and people with certain health conditions may soon be asked to stay at home for several weeks.

SuperValu, which is owned by Musgrave Group, said it did “not have visibility” of the age of its online shoppers other than they need to be aged 18-plus to use the service, but that there were “specific measures in store to cater for elderly customers”.

Some SuperValu stores, which are individually owned and operated, are now taking orders from older customers over the phone for them to collect without having to browse through aisles.

Some older customers “may not wish to use the internet”, a spokesman added.

SuperValu managing director Martin Kelleher said it was “important that people go about their shopping differently” to make sure they and others stay healthy. We are prioritising the elderly all day long in our stores.”

Buymie proposal

Buymie, a third-party home delivery provider for Lidl and Tesco in the greater Dublin area, told The Irish Times earlier this week that it was experiencing a 300 per cent rise in demand for its services.

The Dublin company’s chief executive Devan Hughes said he had made a proposal to Government to set up an emergency direct food-supply services fund to partly cover the cost of deliveries nationally.

Some supermarkets, including Tesco and Lidl, earlier in the week reserved certain shopping hours for those most vulnerable to Covid-19.

Tesco said it would dedicate every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning up to 9am to over-65s and family carers, while Lidl said its “priority shopping hours” for the elderly and at-risk would be 9am-11am every day until further notice.

“We ask that the public respect this time period to allow more vulnerable customers to pick up the food and supplies they need,” the German-owned retailer said.