Wholesalers have reported spikes in demand driven by retailers stockpiling for a second wave of Covid-19 and in preparation for “potential panic buying”.

Last week, Downing Street increased the Coronavirus Alert Level from three to four. The update came amid reports that customers had begun panic buying from supermarkets.

Customers at Morrisons had reportedly begun bulk-buying toilet roll, while availability of rice and fresh produce at the supermarket ran low.

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Parfetts joint managing director Greg Suszczenia told betterRetailing the wholesaler’s sales last week were up by 42%. “We’re seeing pockets of increased buying on traditional stock such as alcohol and groceries, but this is more retailer- than consumer-driven.

“We’re in this up to Christmas and beyond, and we’re having lots of internal meetings about this. We’re not at the same levels seen at the start of lockdown, but it feels like something is coming. I rejected stock from one brewer because we already had it, but they said, ‘Are you sure? Tesco has placed a massive order.’ I’ve gone back and reviewed where we could fit this stock.”

Bestway managing director Dawood Pervez added that the wholesaler is now having weekly, and sometimes daily, calls with Defra to ensure availability.

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He said: “We are anticipating an upward movement in demand, but we do not believe it will reach the same height as seen earlier in the year. We and our suppliers learnt from previous experiences, so we do not believe the same challenges will arise with a second-wave demand, and the industry as a whole is better prepared.”

A source at Costco confirmed the firm began rationing paper items on 23 September before further restricting purchasing by members the following day.

One Costco staff member told betterRetailing the wholesaler had begun limiting tissues to one per customer.

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A retailer who shopped at the wholesaler added that there were queues outside Costco’s Wembley branch from 8.30am, with customers filling trolleys with water and toilet roll.

A boss of another major symbol group said sales of toiletries, medicines and tinned goods increased by 10% through retail orders and 7% through in-store sales.

In a message sent to stores on 22 September, Nisa urged retailers to stock up on 39 key household products and staples including paper, household, tinned grocery and pasta lines. Nisa said it was “prepared for the worst” due to increased stock holdings.

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