Online grocery retailers struggle under weight of unprecedented demand

Supermarkets have had to temporarily suspend their online shopping operations due to an extreme surge in demand for the service over the past week as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Online retailer Ocado has suspended all online orders as it is confronted with higher demand than it can meet following days of panic-buying by consumers.

Ocado Retail CEO Melanie Smith said that the company’s deliveries are full booked and at full capacity, with around 170,000 households booked in for orders over the next four days. She said: “As a result, we have made a decision to temporarily suspend access to for a few days in order to make some changes to our service. This will allow us to better serve our customers, particularly the vulnerable and elderly.”

The surge in demand has affected all online grocery brands, with customers facing a wait of at least three weeks for the next available delivery slot with brands including Sainbsbury’s, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, and the Co-op. Customers who have been able to place an order are discovering that many items are unavailable by the time their delivery takes place due to the huge demand for many products across all store departments.

Sainsbury’s has announced that it will be creating a priority home delivery service for the over-70s starting next week. Morrisons meanwhile has said it plans to create 3,500 jobs so it can expand its delivery service – including 2,500 pickers and drivers as well as 1,000 distribution centre workers – to bolster its capacity over the coming months.

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