Brits pile trolleys high as they stock up on essentials at start of 3rd lockdown

Frantic shoppers have been panic buying again as a new lockdown started today.

Pictures have emerged of supermarket shelves being stripped of frozen and cupboard goods following Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing the country’s third lockdown last night.

The toilet roll aisle at Tesco supermarket in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, was bare today as people stockpiled essentials.

Fresh fruit shelves were also seen emptied at the same supermarket.

Freezers had also been emptied of frozen food and there had also been a run on bread and fresh fruit and vegetables.

Supermarkets have been urging people not to stockpile items and that there is no risk to supply.

The new lockdown, which will see the closure of schools and the hospitality sector, will last until mid February. It is already in place but won’t become law till midnight on Wednesday.

It was announced as the number of infections in the UK reached record numbers on Tuesday as more than 60,000 cases were recorded for the first time since the pandemic started.

The recent peak in cases has largely been attributed to a new strain of the virus said to be 70 per cent more transmittable.

Home delivery slots for supermarkets are also getting booked up, with many customers struggling to get slots and websites crashing.

Supermarkets have seen websites come under pressure after shoppers raced to book deliveries as figures showed a record December for grocers.

The major chains experienced problems with their apps and websites on Monday evening after the Prime Minister addressed the country to urge them to “stay at home”.

Sainsbury’s app is said to have gone down temporarily last night, while Tesco also experienced issues with its online operations and Morrisons and Ocado were forced to place shoppers in virtual queues.

Websites appeared to be running largely as normal on Tuesday, but with little availability left for home delivery slots.

Sainsbury’s said it had temporarily limited access to its online groceries service on Monday night to “manage high demand for slots and updates customers were making to existing orders”.

Tesco said bosses were holding discussions to review the item limit for online baskets, as well as product restrictions across popular items such as toilet rolls, antibacterial wipes and pasta.

The sector has been flooded with demand amid tightening restrictions over the past two months, with industry figures showing a record month for supermarkets in December.

Britons spent £11.7 billion in supermarkets throughout December in their busiest month ever, with trade boosted by the closure of restaurants, bars and cafes across most of the UK, according to Kantar.

The data revealed the record December helped sales jump 11.4% to £32.7 billion over the 12 weeks to December 27.

Morrisons also reported festive trading figures showing sales soared 9.3% year-on-year in the past three weeks, which included the key Christmas trading period.

Like-for-like sales were up 8.5% over the nine weeks to January 3 and were up 8.3% in six months to the same date, helped by strong sales online and increases in its wholesale business.

Kantar said supermarket trading was boosted by the £4 billion that would normally have been spent on food and drink outside the home over the Christmas season.

The report also showed online grocery sales accounted for 12.6% of total spend in December, compared with 7.4% in 2019.

Online specialist Ocado ended the year as the country’s fastest growing retailer after a 36.5% sales surge over the festive quarter.

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said: “December is always an incredibly busy time for supermarkets, but take-home grocery shopping is usually supplemented by celebrations in restaurants, pubs and bars – with £4 billion spent on food and drink, excluding alcohol, out of the home during the normal festive month.

“This year, almost all those meals were eaten at home and retailers stepped up monumentally to meet the surge in demand.”