Retailers are cutting back on or stopping trips to cash and carries following concerns their health is at risk from coronavirus social distancing guidelines not being enforced. 

One retailer, who asked not to be named, told betterRetailing: “I’ve stopped going to Booker because some customers have pushed past each other to get stock as soon as it is unloaded from a pallet.”

Mike Nichols, of Costcutter Dringhouses in York, added: “Customers at my nearest wholesale depot have crowded together. However, it’s not retailers, because they’ve been in the business for years and have more sense. It’s members of the public who are being allowed in.”

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Bestway also faced criticism from retailers following reports of overcrowding at its depots last month, and Dhamecha was accused of not enforcing social distancing guidelines.

Staff at Medway News in Slough wrote that their local site was “like a cattle market”, with “absolutely no rules or order”.

However, Harj Gill, of Select & Save The Windmill in Birmingham, said: “Usually, I do one cash and carry visit a week, but I’m doing four now at Booker, Bestway, Dhamecha and East End Foods. They’ve got stickers and screens in place to ensure retailers are safe and it’s noticeable they are following guidelines. 

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“However, some retailers aren’t distancing themselves when passing others in the aisles and you can’t really control that.”

When asked by betterRetailing what it was doing to ensure the safety of customers at its depots, a Booker spokesperson said the wholesaler was managing queues and limiting the number of retailers in warehouses.

They added: “Social distancing is something we are taking very seriously to protect the health and well-being of our colleagues and customers. 

“We have automated tannoy announcements every 10 minutes reminding customers and colleagues to stay two metres apart, our butchery teams have suspended our cutting service and we are operating a contactless collection service.”

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Parfetts retail director Guy Swindell added that professional security guards have been deployed at its depots. He said: “All our retailers are registered with us, which helps to limit walk-ins. For customers making larger orders, we have ramped up our direct-load facilities where they simply pull up and a member of staff loads straight into the van.”

The Scottish Wholesale Association said many of its members were ensuring customers use hand sanitiser upon entering depots. 

United Wholesale Grocers retail director Tom Slaven added: “We have introduced a drop-and-drive delivered service and reduced our trading hours in all three depots. 

“Hopefully, this will help save lives and support the brave people on the frontline and, of course, our NHS.”

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