The Executive Director of the Australian Retailers Association, Russell Zimmerman, today addressed media reports of panic buying at major Australian retailers on the back of the Coronavirus threat, saying feedback from ARA members indicated stock levels remained solid and that there was “no need to panic” on the part of consumers.

Citing high-level discussions with major retailers including Woolworths and Coles, Mr Zimmerman said that while consumers might find shelves empty for a particular item – as occurs normally prior to restocking – he had received assurances that warehouse inventories remain high, and that any “shortage” was likely to be temporary.

“We urge Australian consumers to go about their business as per usual at present,” Mr Zimmerman said.

Mr Zimmerman said he understood the concerns of Australians who were worried or frightened by some reports circulating in the press – particularly with regard to the growing number of confirmed cases of novel Coronavirus in China, the Middle East, and parts of Europe – but stressed the situation in Australia remained comparatively very minor.

“Australia is perhaps best placed to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak; with advantages of distance, emergency management protocols being rolled out by the federal government, and a very small number of cases in this country, there is absolutely no need to panic or to engage in the emergency stockpiling of consumer goods,” he said.

Mr Zimmerman said both major supermarket chains had reported very busy trading conditions over the past few days and that sales volumes appeared higher than usual, but emphasised that there was no risk of shortages at present.

“We’re comfortable there’s no risk to the availability of food or household essentials; with major retailers maintaining high inventories, if a brand you wish to purchase isn’t available today, it’ll probably be back on the shelf tomorrow,” he said.

Mr Zimmerman noted occasional empty shelves before supermarket packers started work were quite normal, and suggested any temporary outages of individual items could be an opportunity for consumers to try a different brand.

“There is plenty of stock in distribution centres to supply retailers of essential items across the country,” he said.

Mr Zimmerman noted that if the Coronavirus threat lasted for a protracted period of time the situation might change, but that for now there was absolutely no need for Australians to worry that everyday items would become impossible to buy.

“If this continues for some months we might see impacts around the availability of electrical goods, or new season fashion lines later in the year, but I simply stress that for now there’s no need for panic – so don’t,” Mr Zimmerman concluded.

ENDS…for more details: Tim Janczuk (m) 0431 045 373 (e)

About us: founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association is Australia’s largest retail association, representing a $325bn sector employing more than 1.3m people. As Australia’s premier retail body, the ARA works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 7,500 independent and national retail members. To learn more, visit or call 1300 368 041.

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