Supermarkets coming back to normal, says industry federation

Supermarkets coming back to normal, says industry federation
Hamsteren, a new verb in these troubled times. © PxHere

The situation of Belgium’s supermarkets is coming back to normal, according to the retail federation Comeos.

Since the arrival in Belgium of the coronavirus (Covid-19), the country’s supermarkets have been faced with a wave of panic buying that saw shelves emptied of basic provisions such as toilet paper, pasta and bottled water.

That in turn led to strict new rules on priority access for the likes of the elderly and health workers who were otherwise faced with empty shelves.

The supermarkets also had to deal with instructions on social distancing, which led to long lines outside the premises as customers lined up – often unnecessarily – on products which the companies assured us were not in short supply.

The first peak came on 12 March, a day before the pubs and restaurants closed, when supermarket business was 275% higher than on a usual Friday. There then came a second spike on 17 March, when the government issued stricter advice, which saw business at twice the normal level.

Now, however, that wave of consumer panic is showing signs of abating, Comeos said. Since this past Saturday and in the days that followed, the situation is once more returning to normal. The behaviour of shoppers has also settled down, with peaceful lines outside shops, distances being respected, and a marked lack of stockpiling – either because people are convinced it is not needed, or because they already have stockpiles at home.

The weekend was pretty peaceful, and Monday was like a normal Monday,” said the manager of one Lidl supermarket to the VRT.

Thanks to the new rules, the number of customers per supermarket has gone down. Now we have time to restock the shelves, and people can do their shopping in peace.”

The initial panic has, however, had one positive aspect: it has given us the Dutch verb “hamsteren” meaning to load up with food as a hamster does with his cheek-pouches. The hamster, a solitary beast, is able to carry food in his pouches up to twice the size of his head, which he transports to his burrow.

Alan Hope

The Brussels Times

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