Coronavirus: Ex-Sainsbury’s CEO Justin King warns of grocery shortages

Sainsbury’s Justin King shortages panic-buying coronavirus
The warning comes after the government launched contingency "feed the nation" plans
// Sainsbury’s former CEO Justin King warns grocers of likely shortages due to coronavirus outbreak
// King said many fresh food production systems are dependent on labour on a day-to-day basis

M&S’s non-executive director Justin King has reportedly called on grocers to prepare for likely shortages in their supply chain, provided that the coronavirus outbreak escalates.

King, the former chief executive of Sainsbury’s, said sudden and large-scale reductions in staff would be far more challenging that the onslaught of panic-buying, Sky News reported.

He said many fresh food production systems are dependent on labour on a day-to-day basis.


King’s warning comes after the government launched contingency “feed the nation” plans last week to alleviate the increased stockpiling brought on by the coronavirus outbreak.

Under these plans, grocers would work with suppliers to scale back the variety of foods and groceries available.

He added that the food supply chains are already well set up to handle staff absences while they are self-isolating.

Moreover, on Tuesday, Iceland managing director Richard Walker said shoppers are turning to frozen food as the coronavirus outbreak spreads.

Walker said that there was no need for shoppers to panic buy, with the frozen food grocer reporting “no supply issues” despite the outbreak.

Click here to sign up to Retail Gazette’s free daily email newsletter


  1. Sainsbury’s Crawley ifield avenue store has been chaos empty shelves everywhere, we only shop once a fortnight , being a pensioner to try and shop in this store today was a joke utter disgrace.

  2. Sainsburys in Silksworth Lane Sunderland is also poor they seem to often have half empty shelves and because they’ve cut down the floor space for an Argos they’ve stopped stocking loads of things also the fresh fruit and veg is often rotten and had to be returned my daughter in law found weavels in a bag of flour.

  3. I think its absolutely madness the people are buying up everything in sight, I have just been buying normally but cant buy my normal toiletries because of these selfish idiots, I was down the pasta lane this women said to her husband “GRAB WHAT YOU CAN” there was hardly nothing on the shelves

  4. After reading articles on DailyMail about a pandemonium… this unsolved case of viral infections has fogged my usual activity.

    I have found that there is lots to be sort after.

  5. An assistant in Sainsbury’s today said that it’s the same people coming back every day bulk buying. Supermarkets have the technology to identify these people and limit their purchases. In fact, they could simply limit everyone to buying one or two items. The same assistant said she had a women who came in looking for wipes – her husband has a colostomy bag so their need is far greater than individuals who can only have profiteering intentions. The supermarkets have a moral duty to control this insanity.

  6. It’s mad…stock piling ..I couldn’t get baby formula from Aldi for my 8 week old as someone has taken the whole shelf.just goes to show when things get rocky everyone thinks about themselves….

  7. Same in Sainsbury’s flackwellheath
    It’s not the staff they are working on the shop floor and tills exposing themselves to the virus for £9.20 ph
    It’s customers same in all the large supermarkets and convenience stores total panic selfishness cruel disgusting
    The panic buying started last week and wasn’t controlled so spiralled
    Now supermarkets are trying harder to help customers

  8. What is a matter with these selfish people I hope they choke on their stockpile of food,
    I have been to Sainsburys at West Green Crawley today 19th March at Appro 11.00 am and it is the worst I have seen it since the virus started. There is literally no potatoes a few carrots ; no frozen food , no eggs, no fresh meat the list is endless. I bumped into one of my disabled neighbours Carer who was doing the food shopping for the neighbor his trolley was empty as he could find one thing on his list which was required when I arrived back home I saw the Carer standing at my neighbours doorstep trying to explain why he had come back from Sainsburys empty handed.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here