Coronavirus: Entrepreneurs cash in on boom as online firms face unprecedented demand

20 March 2020, 21:56

File photo: The coronavirus pandemic has led to a boom in online orders
File photo: The coronavirus pandemic has led to a boom in online orders. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

Online delivery firms are facing unprecedented demand amid the coronavirus crisis escalates as entrepreneurs cash in on the boom.

Amazon and Walmart are among the retailers struggling to keep up with a surge in orders as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to sweep the globe and force populations into virtual lockdown.

Meanwhile, entrepreneurial smaller companies are rushing to boost supply and trying innovative means to keep trading in groceries and essential goods.

Online giant Amazon announced earlier this week that it is temporarily no longer stocking some non-essential items in its warehouses in the US and Europe, hitting third-party sellers, owing to overwhelming demand.

The move, which affects everything except household and medical essentials, has already seem some toilet paper brands run out of stock on the website.

It comes after UK online grocery giant Ocado has suspended all orders until further notice, blaming "a simply staggering amount of traffic" to its website that its stock and delivery staff could not meet.

But others are moving in to fill the gap in the market. Steve and Sally Green, who run the gin distillery Harrogate Tipple, have started making hand sanitiser after finding scores of empty shelves in stores.

Already equipped with alcohol supplies, they looked up a recipe and found a list of ingredients from the World Health Organisation.

They have now bought in the aloe vera gel, glycerine and, after contacting hair product wholesalers, the hydrogen peroxide needed.

Local-based organic vegetable delivery traders are also experiencing huge strain comparable with their Christmas peak.

Abel & Cole, which ships 55,000 food boxes a week on average, has seen a 25 per cent hike in orders, with Devon-based Riverford also taking on more staff to deal with the boom.

Rob Haward, Riverford’s managing director, explained: “This has been driven by those self-isolating for coronavirus or avoiding public shopping spaces to protect themselves by choosing home delivery, as well as the demand for healthy, organic food."

In Lincoln, businesses struck by the government's advice for all Brits to social distance - meaning staying away from bars, restaurants and cafes - have begun operating as takeaways in a pioneering attempt to survive, with the Treaty of Commerce offering takeout ales.

It comes as widespread hoarding in supermarkets has forced Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Saimsbury's and others to issue limits on what shoppers can purchase in a bid to reverse stockpiling.