Supermarkets to limit customer numbers to slow coronavirus spread

Retailers introduce increased sanitation and reduce reliance on ‘high contact surfaces’

Supermarkets across the State have started rolling out measures aimed at protecting customers and staff and ensuring there will continue to be sufficient supplies for all customers who need them.

Amongst the most visible steps being taken are moves to ensure social distance is maintained and a reduced reliance on high contact surfaces. There has also been a significant increase in cleaning and disinfecting within stores.

"We have been adopting additional measures over the past few days which have become more visible to customers such as social distance marking," a Lidl spokeswoman said.

As of Wednesday morning, Lidl has also deployed a company to spray store trolleys and baskets with a bio-misting spray.


This specially designed cleaning device “is used to create a fine mist of disinfectant particles. As the particles settle onto and around surfaces the cleaning chemical starts to work killing bacteria, spores and viruses while sanitising the items immediately,” the spokeswoman said.

The spray also kills airborne infections the spokeswoman said.

Lidl said it is also likely to introduce other measures in the coming days and weeks “we will see additional measures put in place to offer even more reassurance to our teams and customers”.

The spokeswoman said there had been a stepped up security presence in some stores in recent days but stressed that it was as a precaution and there have no reports of any incidents.

SuperValu's managing director Martin Kelleher said in order to "reflect the words of the Taoiseach we will come together as a nation by staying apart from each other and that's just as important in SuperValu stores as it is anywhere else in the community."

He said that it was important for people “go about their shopping differently to make sure that everyone stays healthy.”

Among the changes introduced as part of SuperValu’s social distancing and preventative measures will be notices as people enter stores reminding customers about social distancing. There will also be with hand sanitisers and staff to manage the number of people going in-store.

“There are limitations on the number of customers allowed in store at any one time depending on the store size. We would ask people to bear with us and respect the directions given in-store,” Mr Kelleher said.

He said once in-store, customers were being asked “to respect each other’s space and avoid contact with other customers by observing a social distance of two meters”.

At checkouts customers may notice tape on the floor or signs showing them how far to stay apart from each other in the queue. They will be called to the till by the cashier and given additional advice.

“For example, where possible we are asking people to use contactless or by mobile phone for larger amounts,” Mr Kelleher said. “Obviously we are aware that some customers may not be familiar with these payment methods and prefer to use cash, and we would ask them to have patience with us if asked to place cash on the checkout and step back, before the cashier then places their change back on the belt.”

He reminded shoppers about measures already introduced for elderly and vulnerable people in the community.

“We are prioritising the elderly all day long in our stores. We have more staff around our stores committed to ensuring the elderly and vulnerable customers are looked after when they visit,” he said..

He added that many SuperValu stores had “tailored solutions in place that best suit their customers whether it is dedicated staff to help these groups with their shopping in-store, dedicated times allocated to them, or the ability to phone in their order in advance and simply collect it”.

He again stressed the need for the wider public “to buy only what they need to make sure that others do not have to go without.”

A Tesco spokeswoman said that a two-metre cordon around the checkout areas had been introduced in line with HSE guidelines.

“We’re encouraging customers to keep the required distance, by unloading their trolley or basket onto the empty conveyor belt and then proceeding to other side of the checkout to pack their bags and complete their transaction, using contactless where possible,” she said.

She said Tesco was also encouraging customers “to be mindful of their own social distancing when moving around our stores”. We are communicating this to customers in store with signage and an audio reminder. She said cleaning had been increased “in particular shopping trolley handles, baskets, chip and pin terminals and self-scans in store”.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast