Why Coles supermarket shelves are empty – and it's not due to panic buying

Some supermarket shelves are being left emptied of more than just toilet paper, with Coles customers unable to fulfil their shopping lists as Victoria experiences a spike in coronavirus cases.

While another surge of panic buying has made some items unattainable, Coles customers in Victoria are complaining they can’t find fruit, vegetables, milk and other staples due to a different reason.

Victoria has recently experienced major spikes in coronavirus cases, with 73 recorded on Wednesday, up from 64 on Tuesday.

As a result, 10 postcodes will go into a four-week lockdown as of midnight on Thursday and people will only be allowed to leave their homes for four reasons.

Shoppers queue at the registers at a Coles supermarket in Sydney.
Coles said it was experiencing shortages in some products due to a coronavirus outbreak in the Laverton distribution centre. Source: AAP

One of the recent outbreaks in Victoria occurred at the Coles distribution centre in Laverton, in Melbourne’s southwest, with five cases now linked to the centre.

Workers are now undergoing testing while the distribution centre is thoroughly cleaned, causing a delay in groceries getting onto supermarket shelves.

Pictures emerging on social media too have revealed the impact the coronavirus outbreak is having in some stores across Victoria.

One woman posted a picture from a Coles store in Healesville, about 50 kilometres northeast of Melbourne, of barren shelves where bottles of milk used to sit.

“Honestly,” she wrote alongside the picture.

Pictured is an empty milk shelf in Healesville, Victoria.
An empty supermarket shelf in Coles in Healesville, Victoria. Source: Facebook

Another customer said the store had not had stock in over a week.

“Can’t get cheese or butter. Ridiculous,” she said.

Others were quick to share the scenes from other local Victorian stores, with one saying Cowes, the main township on Phillip Island, had hardly any meat, cheese and toilet paper.

Coles explains reason for shortages

Coles apologised to customers for the inconvenience and said it was monitoring stock levels while teams were working hard to replenish shelves.

A supermarket spokesperson confirmed to Yahoo News Australia some stores were experiencing a shortage in stock as a result of the coronavirus outbreak at the Laverton distribution centre in Melbourne’s southwest.

It comes after the supermarket giant reinstated product limits in Victoria amid fears of another panic-buying surge.

“Coles last week implemented purchase limits for some staple food and grocery items in our Victorian supermarkets and convenience stores to help manage increased demand,” the Coles spokesperson said in a statement.

“Since then, we have also experienced short-term delays in some deliveries of items to our Victorian stores as we work with the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct testing of workers employed at one of our Victorian distribution centres.

“We thank customers for their understanding and for continuing to shop normally so that everyone can have access to the food and groceries they need."

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