Approaches to stop people panic buying and hoarding were not terribly effective. Thankfully, the position appears to have improved over the last week.
Here are my thoughts on what the three key players could have done differently.
Supermarkets – it simply became so complicated to go shopping, that you had to know which stores were open, when, who was allowed in, what the limits were, etc, etc. This fuelled uncertainty which, in turn, increased panic. Confusion could have been reduced by agreeing a single, simple way of working across all supermarkets, such as: -
Creating a common set of opening hours, for example 8am to 8pm Mon-Sat and 10am to 4pm Sun.
Agreeing on no more than 3 of the same products at any one visit.
Restricting the number of people allowed into a store at any one time in an attempt to support social distancing.
Removing priority for key workers and vulnerable people. Make the process the same for everyone.
UK Government – in stress situations, people aren’t very good at working out stuff for themselves, especially when they’re facing a situation they’ve never experienced before. They also don’t cope well with uncertainty, and advice, no matter how strongly worded, is open to interpretation. I would have: -
Demonstrated through language that I am in control by being very clear and very decisive.
Been completely honest about how long this is likely to last.
Enforced any new policy by introducing penalties.
Worked more closely with key players to ensure a coordinated approach.
Media – the media should have been encouraged to switch their attention to reporting on food producers, importers, farmers, logistics companies. I’d have proposed: -
Showing news articles of warehouses bursting at the seams, queues of lorries waiting to be loaded and dispatched.
Interviewing factory owners and showing consumers how they are working 24/7 to keep up with demand.
Taking us round the backroom stock space of high street supermarkets to demonstrate that stock is there, but that it can’t be put out fast enough.
Reporting on where all the new jobs are and who’s recruiting and what’s the process. Support and reinforce key government messages.
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