PORT HAWKESBURY: Despite an increase in panic-buying in recent weeks – due to concerns around the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) – grocers are assuring their customers there is enough to go around, for everyone.

Michael Doucette, the Atlantic Canadian regional vice-president of operations for Loblaw, says he remains confident their supply chain and the food supply chain will remain strong and intact.

“We’ve opened up daily deliveries to help smooth-out those peaks and valleys,” he said. “Vendors are making extra deliveries to help push product out faster as stores have seen double business on any given day.”

Under the Loblaw banner, the company runs franchises across Canada including Shoppers Drug Mart, Atlantic Superstore, Your Independent Grocer, No Frills, Dominion, Provigo, Zehrs, and T&T Supermarket.

Doucette advised some “hot commodity” items such as sanitizers and toilet paper are going to be harder to re-stock and shelves may seem bare in the canned, boxed and frozen food sections from time-to-time, but retailers adjust accordingly and the shelves are re-stocked.

“If you don’t see it on the shelves today,” he said. “Chances are the product will be there tomorrow.”

Mark Boudreau, Loblaw Atlantic’s director of corporate affairs, said the company understands the frustration an empty shelf can have on an individual but ensures they’re working to re-stock items as quickly as possible.

“Our teams have increased inventory on those products, and wherever possible, we expect to be fully back in stock in the coming days,” he said. “In some cases, limits may be imposed to help us ensure more customers have access to the products they need.”

To practice social distancing, Atlantic Superstore is eliminating pickup fees for all PC Express on-line grocery orders; and along with Sobeys are piloting “one-way” lane traffic.

In light of federal and provincial health officials identifying the elderly and those with other medical concerns as the most vulnerable, several companies, including those under the Loblaw and Sobeys banners, have introduced designated hours at their stores when only seniors and those with disabilities can buy groceries with a decreased chance of close contact with other customers.

“We ask that all of our guests respect this dedicated shopping time for those in our community that are most vulnerable,” Galen Weston, the executive chairman of Loblaw Companies said.

In a statement to their customers, Sobeys said they viewed their stores as “essential services” and they were doing everything in their power to maintain their stores to the highest standard of cleanliness and safety and was launching its “Hero Pay Program.”

“Our team is playing a vital role in providing Canadians with food, medicine and essentials they need for their families during this terrible crisis,” said Michael Medline, Sobeys CEO and president.

As part of the Hero Pay Program, employees will get an additional $50 a week, regardless of the number of hours worked and all employees who work more than 20 hours a week will get an additional $2 premium per hour for all hours over 20.

This program is retroactive to March 8 and workers will get their first payments in early April. At the end of April, the arrangements will be reassessed.

In a similar decision, Loblaw announced “in recognition of their outstanding and ongoing efforts keeping our stores open and operating so effectively,” they would be temporarily increasing compensation for their store and distribution centre colleagues by approximately 15 per cent retroactive to March 8. For a minimum wage employee, the 15 per cent increase represents a pay bump of about $2 an hour. The wage increase will apply to both full-time and part-time workers at all Loblaw stores and its associated banners, including Shoppers Drug Mart.

“Our supermarkets and pharmacies are performing well,” Weston said. “And the leaders in our business wanted to make sure that a significant portion of that benefit would go straight into the pockets of the incredible people on the front line.”