Sainsbury to allow early shop for elderly and vulnerable and to restrict purchases

Extracted from an email “Update from Sainsbury’s Chief Executive Mike Coupe”

"A number of you suggested that we reserve an hour in stores for elderly and vulnerable customers. In response to this request, we will set aside the first hour in every supermarket this Thursday 19th March, for elderly and vulnerable customers.I hope that you can respect this decision and will work with us as we try our best to help those that need it the most. 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.

We will also help elderly and vulnerable customers access food online. From Monday 23rd March, our online customers who are over 70 years of age or have a disability will have priority access to online delivery slots. We will contact these customers in the coming days with more details.

For any online customer who can travel to our stores, from Monday 23rd March, we will operate an expanded ‘click and collect’ service. We are significantly increasing the number of collection sites across the country over the coming days in preparation for this. Customers can place their order online as usual and pick it up from a collection point in the store car park. We believe this will also work for people who are self-isolating.

As we work to feed the nation, we are also focusing all of our efforts on getting as much food and other essential items from our suppliers, into our warehouses and onto shelves as we possibly can. We still have enough food for everyone - if we all just buy what we need for us and our families.

To help us get more essential items onto the shelves, from this Thursday 19th March, we will be closing our cafes and our meat, fish and pizza counters in supermarkets. This means we can free up warehouse and lorry capacity for products that customers really need. It will also free up time for our store colleagues to focus on keeping the shelves as well stocked as possible.

I mentioned last week that we had put limits on a very small number of products. Following feedback from our customers and from our store colleagues, we have decided to put restrictions on a larger number of products. From tomorrow, Wednesday 18th March, customers will be able to buy a maximum of three of any grocery product and a maximum of two on the most popular products including toilet paper, soap and UHT milk. We 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 numbers of customers.

Finally, I wanted to end by saying a huge thank you to Sainsbury’s colleagues across the business. Everyone is working flat out in difficult circumstances to do their best to serve our customers. If you’re able to say thank you to them when you see them, I know they would hugely appreciate it.

Best wishes




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Does anyone know what time Sainsbury’s new cross and/or bell green open tomorrow with this in mind?

I believe all Sainsburys stores open at 7am

Being “of a ceratin age” I toddled along to Bell Green at about 7.15 this morning.

It’s all well & good Sainsbury’s saying that they have designated an hour for elderly shoppers - but on the strength of what I saw this morning, nobody is going to pay any attention to the call, and Sainsbury’s are going to make no attempt to enforce it.

Of the people in the shop (once I finally got in!) I would estimate that around 80% of the customers were below the age of 60 - let alone 70. There were even mothers with 2 or 3 young kids in tow, for Heavens’ sake.

And as you might imagine, there was a terrific scrum for whatever was left on the shelves by that time.

I think I’m going to have to rely on local corner shops and convenicnce stores from now on, and just cook/eat whatever it is I can find in there.

Sorry to hear that, and hopefully Sainsbury’s try to enforce it a bit more though really it would be nice if people could just respect it. I suspect today will be a particularly bad day with the school closure announced yesterday and some people entering panic mode, and for some people suddenly they do have many more meals to cook each day, maybe 1 parent + 2 kids to 3 lunches extra a day for example.

Are you open to deliveries - if so they said they will also prioritise deliveries which might be a better option?

But yes shopping local there is quite often more available there.

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I would suggest that the first hour is not the most sensible hour to pick.

Perhaps 9.00 to 10.00 or 10.00 to 11.00.

These are often very quiet hours.

The challenge would then be emptying the store of people of the wrong category. I work at HQ so I’ve fed this back today. There will inevitably be a settling in period given the speed that this has been turned around. We are replying on public cooperation with this and an element of self policing. The store management team need to be focused on stocking the store rather than trying to police who is coming through the front door. I’m sure in time, and once people realise that we’ve moved to this way of working, things will improve.


James I wonder (if not already done) just some signs at the entry points with Entry 8am, over 70s etc only 7am to 8am) might help in case some people are unaware. I think we all appreciate staff are busy elsewhere stocking up etc so can’t be asked to stand there and police this, which a times might be confrontational and you then need security etc - stores like bell green do have security I think, perhaps they could be repurposed for this hour to try at the entry points?

@HonorOakBloke if you are desperate for something or truly out of food drop me a PM and I will try to sort something out for you - I can drop stuff off outside your doorstep.

Thanks for the kind offer - but I did manage to get (mostly) what my wife & I needed this morning.
That will be enough to tide us over through to next week - by which time I would hope that this crazy panic buying spree has calmed down a bit.

Failing that, I’ll either try the Sainsburys Click & Collect service - or stick to buying at local shops. Which is probably the best thing to do in the circumstances, as the local shops are going to be financially hit much harder than the supermarkets as this crisis deepens.

Signage is the plan but maybe didn’t happen at Sydenham today. We will get to grips with and the situation will improve generally - especially when people start to shop sensibly.


Thanks @James1P - to be clear it might of happened, I was just wondering and certainly not having a go - thanks to you and your colleagues in what must be a very busy and stressful time for all.

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There have been reports of people pushing past elderly customers and taking things out of their hands. I can’t verify this personally, but such behaviour must not be tolerated. People seem to forget that a shop is private property which you enter on licence as a customer - and that licence can be revoked at any time and you can be asked to leave. Once you are asked to leave you effectively become a trespasser and the police can be called. Going forwards, if staff are unable to take a tough line (and I understand the challenges), I suspect police involvement may be necessary. Here in Forest Hill today, the first hour at the Sainsburys seemed set to pass off much better when we passed by there.


I think the announcement of school closures yesterday, together with other rumours, probably made for a lot of panic buying this morning.

It’s really no excuse for pushing past people or not respecting rules set out to help the vulnerable, but I was at the petrol station at 06:30 this morning and the Sainsbury’s car park was already half full! I think it would have been difficult for Sainsbury’s staff to deal with such a crowd.

Let’s hope things calm down, though if the shelves could be fully restocked, I think that would be the strongest signal not to panic.


Conversely, we now know of elderly individuals who sent children and/or close relatives to shop for them today with ID at Sainsbury’s Forest Hill but who were denied entry because they weren’t official carers. We need a recognised process in place so that relatives, helpers and carers can all gain admission when they are shopping for people who can’t or shouldn’t go shopping themselves. I recognise there are no easy answers, but I am putting it out there is a problem that needs to be addressed.


In these times, decisions need to be made quickly, and need a simply process. For me it’s over 70s only, no-one buying on their behalf etc, that’s it.

For people who can’t get there, or don’t want for isolation reasons (perfectly understandable and even recommended) to but have someone to assist, that person goes as with others and \ or orders online where they will get priority. Click and collect might be an area where this could be expanded.

On a tangent, if over 70s are meant to be isolating you could argue this should be home deliveries only, even if payment is taken on the doorstep.


I asked one of the staff stacking shelves in Sainsburys Forest Hill this afternoon how the first hour for the over 70’s and vulnerable had gone today and he responded that it had been pretty quiet. However he then admitted many of the shelves weren’t filled so they probably didn’t have everything that those customers wanted! :roll_eyes:


I think I disagree. The purpose of the hour is to allow over 70s (who, if following guidance, will be mostly isolating) to shop in the absence of those under 70 (who are not isolating as much and therefore more likely to be infected).

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Except that not all of the most vulnerable people can order online. Some people don’t have Internet access. And even for those of us who can get online there are no delivery slots.

Then again, cash will soon run out. So how do people reimburse the kind volunteers who are helping them?

There’s no one answer of course, but Sophie Davis has posted elsewhere (SE26.Life maybe?) that Age UK and Lewisham are coordinating efforts. I can’t recall exactly what she said, but I’ll try to find and post a link.

On this very site in fact:

That’s fair enough. I’ve banned my parents from going to the shops (really :slight_smile: ) and my sister and I will take turns heading to the shops and delivering stuff for them, though they seems to now accept ordering online. I know not everyone has family and or \ access.

I think I heard this morning one supermarket chain thinking of doing some form of ‘package’ - not sure what it would be but let’s say essentials, food to get you through the week, 2 weeks etc, that maybe you could call up for delivery (am assuming most people can call) that could be delivered and paid for with a card or cash on the doorstep.

I am making it up as I go along I freely admit, but there must be a way - I realise I’m not really qualified to comment.

Maybe the solution is just in neighbours - I’ve offered to get stuff for one elderly neighbour (who has said no for now) and others who need to isolate - essentially we probably just all need to help where we can.

I think people do need to get out to walk etc, but shops like this seem a bad idea to me for at risk groups, so I think if deliveries to keep people going can be arranged for a few months or more, that should be the aim. I accept it might not be possible for all.