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Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda limit sales of food and other groceries

Supermarket giants have begun restricting grocery sales, limiting shoppers to buying up to three of the same item. Some are also reducing store opening hours or allowing only elderly or vulnerable shoppers in at certain times as they struggle to manage massive demand related to the coronavirus outbreak.

Here's what supermarkets have told us they're doing from today:

  • Sainsbury's says shoppers will be restricted to a maximum of three of any of the same grocery item – and just two of the most in-demand products, such as toilet paper, soap and UHT milk.

  • Tesco says customers will also face a three-item limit applied to all products, with a two-item maximum imposed on toilet roll and paracetamol.

  • Asda says customers will only be permitted to buy up to three of any one product across all food items, toiletries and cleaning products.

Restrictions apply both in-store and online.

For the latest info and full help on coronavirus, see our Coronavirus Financial Help & Rights and Coronavirus Travel Rights guides.

How are supermarkets helping vulnerable customers?

In another unprecedented move, the first hour of trading tomorrow (Thursday 19 March) across every one of Sainsbury's stores will be set aside for 'elderly and vulnerable' customers only.

In an open letter to customers published today, Sainsbury's chief executive Mike Coupe said: "If you or an elderly family member, friend or neighbour would like to shop during this hour, please check online for your local supermarket opening hours."

All other Sainsbury's customers will be able to shop from one hour later than the published opening time.

From Monday (23 March), Sainsbury's is also giving priority access to online delivery slots to the over-70s and those with disabilities. It said it will contact customers with more details in the next few days. It confirmed the perk is open to both new customers and those with existing online accounts.

Morrisons is launching a customer call centre for orders to be taken over the phone, so that people who do not shop online can still order food. We're finding out more info on when this will be up and running.

Which supermarkets are cutting store opening times?

Tesco is temporarily cutting opening hours in larger stores (Extra, superstores and large Metros) to 6am-10pm to meet customer demand. A few large stores with pharmacies will continue to stay open past 10pm.

Asda is temporarily closing its 24-hour stores between 12am and 6am to allocate the time to restocking shelves.

What do supermarkets say?

Supermarkets insist the changes are about distributing stock fairly, rather than a reflection of stock shortages.

In his open letter, Mr Coupe said: "We [Sainsbury's] have enough food coming into the system, but are limiting sales so that it stays on shelves for longer and can be bought by a larger number of customers."

Tesco said that while there has been a short-term impact on the supply of a few products, overall stock levels are good. It says it's 'working around the clock' to restock stores every day.

We've contacted the other supermarkets for their purchase limit plans and will keep you updated as soon as we get responses.

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