South West shoppers encouraged to buy local as chain supermarkets report COVID-19 related lack of stock

Sold out: Coles at Bunbury Centrepoint had sold out of toilet paper by close of business almost every day in the last week. Picture: Pip Waller
Sold out: Coles at Bunbury Centrepoint had sold out of toilet paper by close of business almost every day in the last week. Picture: Pip Waller

SHOPPERS throughout the South West have struggled to buy basic necessities such as toilet paper and panadol as 'panic buying' once again sweeps across Western Australia.

In anticipation of the state border opening on February 5 and evidence of the COVID-19 strain Omicron in the community, Coles and Woolworths have seen an increased lack of stock, which last week resulted in the introduction of product limits.

Items such as toilet paper, analgesics (paracetamol), perishables such as pasta and rice, lifelong milk and various meats have seen an increase in demand.

According to a statement released by Woolworths on January 13, the supermarket experienced supply chain challenges that impacted stock levels across the country, put down to the surge of COVID-19 cases over east which resulted in high rates of worker absenteeism.

Customer notice: Product limits on items such as panadol, toilet paper and chicken were quickly introduced by Woolworths and Coles to help combat a lack of stock. Picture: Pip Waller

Customer notice: Product limits on items such as panadol, toilet paper and chicken were quickly introduced by Woolworths and Coles to help combat a lack of stock. Picture: Pip Waller

But for Western Australia, a Woolworths media spokesperson confirmed that the lack of stock in the state was also because of 'panic buying'.

"The limits are a precautionary move following recent food and grocery supply chain constraints and pockets of increased demand across select categories," the spokesperson said.

"The limits will ensure more customers have fair access to toilet paper and analgesics."

South West businesses such as the Bunbury Farmers Market and South Bunbury Marketplace have not been impacted.

South Bunbury Marketplace store manager Simon Ibbitson said due to the shop sourcing a "huge amount" of stock locally, it hadn't been impacted by the stock deliveries that other supermarkets had experienced.

"While it has been unseasonably busy, our shelves remain mostly full," Mr Ibbitson said.

"We have three onsite butchers who source meats locally meaning every day there are fresh meats in the fridges.

"We have also made sure at no point during COVID to increase our prices and take advantage of people and our customers love that fact."

In stock: The Bunbury Farmers Market still has plenty of stock due to receiving stock locally. Picture: supplied

In stock: The Bunbury Farmers Market still has plenty of stock due to receiving stock locally. Picture: supplied

Bunbury Farmers Market co-owner and produce manager Graham Heath said they were also not seeing a lack of stock because of the stores short supply chains.

"Unlike the big chains who get their produce from all over the place, we know specifically where ours is coming from, and it is local," Mr Heath said. "It's always a great time to shop local, but especially now."

ALDI Australia has also reportedly seen a lack of stock, but has not yet implemented item limits. At the time of publication, Woolworths and Coles had not yet implemented select shopping times for seniors, introduced at the height of panic buying in 2021.