The bigger supermaket chains said it was too early to tell if people had started panic-buying again but reassured customers there was enough stock to deal with a surge in demand sparked by Boris Johnson’s announcement. Essential shops such as supermarkets, garden centres and shops “providing essential goods and services” will remain open under the new lockdown rules.
But non-essential retailers including clothing and electronics shops, car showrooms, travel agents, betting shops, auction houses, tailors, car washes, and tobacco and vape shops will be forced to close.
Supermarket giant Tesco said it would be business as usual despite the new restrictions across the whole of England.
A spokesman said: “We would encourage our customers to shop as normal.”
A spokesman for Sainsbury’s said: “We aren’t currently restricting products.
“Customers can continue to shop safely and with confidence in our stores, where they will see we have good availability.”
But despite the reassurances, hundreds of people joined long queues outside Costco stores in Manchester, Leicester, Southampton and London while shelves were stripped of toilet rolls at supermarkets across the country.
Shopper Sinead Johnson tweeted: “I popped into Asda to get a few bits for my Halloween movie night and half the shelves were empty already.
“The panic buying has started.”
Lorraine Foster, who went to a Costco in Sudbury, said: “The queue was enormous, it’s ridiculous.
“I think people are just starting to get a bit anxious now with the new restrictions about to come.”
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Online supermarket Ocado said its delivery slots were in high demand with several lines “selling out faster than usual”.
It is understood that supermarkets were given no advanced warning of a national lockdown.
An industry insider said: “The Government has blindsided us again.”
British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson and Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of the New West End Company, have described the lockdown as a “nightmare before Christmas”.
Ms Dickinson said: “It will cause untold damage to the high street in the run up to Christmas, cost countless jobs, and permanently set back the recovery of the wider economy, with only a minimal effect on the transmission of the virus.”
She said the previous lockdown cost non-essential shops £1.6bn a week in lost sales and expects the impact to be even greater as the retail sector is entering the all-important Christmas shopping period.
She said retailers have spent thousands of pounds to become COVID-safe and warned there could now be “a significant economic impact on the viability of thousands of shops and hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country.” of a rescue package in the next 72 hours.”
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Mr Tyrrell said: “Retailers and the public need to be reassured that there is light at the end of the tunnel, as continued uncertainty and stop-start measures are undermining confidence and worsening an already catastrophic situation.”
Ian Wright, the Food and Drink Federation chief executive, said that firms need further clarity in order to support their food supply chains.
He warned: “The economic impacts of this decision threaten calamity unless we see further details