By Siti Noor Afera Abu & Nur Syaza Fuhat
KUALA LUMPUR, March 22 -- Malaysian consumers’ panic buying has resulted in the temporary suspension of online grocery delivery services amid fears of the COVID-19 outbreak and the 14-day Movement Control Order (MCO).
Panic buying began on Sunday, a day before Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced the MCO from March 18 to 31.
Local supermarkets have experienced a spike in orders, causing them to temporarily suspend their online delivery services until further notice.
The Jaya Grocer supermarket chain said replenishing stocks on the shelves is its top priority at the moment, adding it is doubling its efforts towards this end.
“We are currently facing a huge increase in orders for our online delivery service, and we understand that some of you may have had a less than satisfactory online shopping experience,” it said in a statement.
Online grocery store MyGroser, which delivers throughout the Klang Valley, is also facing unusually high traffic to its website.
MyGroser chief executive officer and co-founder Stephen P Francis said this period has seen a sudden, unexpected demand in its volume, with the team having to delay or deliver orders with only half of the items in them.
“The increase has been substantial, but we have managed to increase our delivery fleet and capacity over the past two days, and are now able to help even more consumers who need groceries delivered.
“Currently, we are in the midst of deploying an enhanced online solution that will be able to handle greater volumes of incoming requests and orders from our consumers as well as increasing the number of vehicles to better meet the expected delivery times for our customers.
“We are also working with our suppliers to increase the availability of fresh items to meet our customers' demands,” he told Bernama on Saturday, adding that the company has switched most of its advertising to online channels during this period.
HappyFresh Malaysia is also facing a massive influx in orders as more people start to work from home after the government announced the 14-day MCO.
Managing director Hu Hun Hui said with the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak, the company has seen a significant increase in people shopping for online groceries.
“Orders have increased approximately by 10 to 15 per cent, and we believe the fraction could have been higher if not because of panic buying, which results in suppliers being unable to stock up on time.
“We are trying our best to give more delivery slots, hiring more riders and shoppers, and we are currently working together with a third-party logistics provider to assist our deliveries, while our retailer partners have also been updating us on stock availability,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lazada Malaysia said it is also experiencing a spike in orders over the weekend.
“We are currently seeing increasing demand following the announcement of the MCO on March 17,” a company spokesperson said.
Lazada shoppers have been observed to be buying more grocery items with the company also seeing an increase in demand for teleconferencing and computer accessories as Malaysians hunt for products to help them create a more conducive and productive home working environment.
Lazada said it is continuing its normal operations, noting its warehouse and delivery personnel have been working tirelessly to ensure continued business operations and minimise the impact on order deliveries.
Meanwhile, Mydin Mohamed Holdings Bhd (MYDIN) managing director Datuk Wira Ameer Ali Mydeen said shoppers are spending more on rice, sugar, cooking oil, cookies, canned food such as sardines as well as frozen foods.
“Purchases of adult diapers in supermarkets and online have also seen an increase, while the high demand for face masks and hand sanitisers still persists,” he said, adding MYDIN would have to limit the sale of these items in view of the very high demand for them.
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