Our priority in dealing with the exceptional challenges posed by COVID-19 is to ensure the safety of our customers and colleagues, support our suppliers and maintain the availability of food. In every region we are working closely with the government and public health authorities to ensure we are supporting wherever we can and following all the relevant guidelines.
The specific challenges across the Group are three-fold, and most keenly felt in the UK. First, the significant change in buying behaviour of our customers. Second, the impact of the virus on our colleagues and thirdly, helping the more vulnerable in society, as defined by the UK Government.
In the first few weeks of the crisis, significant panic buying (c.30% uplift in the UK) cleared the supply chain of certain items. This has now stabilised across the Group and more normal sales volumes are being experienced. The size and nature of our workforce means we have experienced a significant absence of colleagues. Full colleague sickness support is in place and in the last two weeks alone, we recruited more than 45,000 colleagues in the UK.
Whilst we have already stepped up our capacity on Grocery Home Shopping by more than 20%, and will continue to increase this, there is simply not enough capacity to supply the whole market. Between 85% and 90% of all food bought will require a visit to a store and here significant changes to the store environment have been implemented to maximise safety for colleagues and customers. We will continue to try and prioritise home delivery for the most vulnerable in society as defined by the UK Government.
Dave Lewis, Chief Executive:
“COVID-19 has shown how critical the food supply chain is to the UK and I’m very proud of the way Tesco, as indeed the whole UK food industry, has stepped forward.
In this time of crisis we have focused on four things; food for all, safety for everyone, supporting our colleagues and supporting our communities.
Initial panic buying has subsided and service levels are returning to normal. There are significant extra costs in feeding the nation at the moment but these are partially offset by the UK Business rates relief.
Tesco is a business that rises to a challenge and this will be no different. I would like to thank colleagues for their unbelievable commitment and customers for their help and understanding. Together, we can do this.”