Coles said shoppers in locked-down areas, in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, would only be able to buy one pack of toilet paper from Wednesday morning.
There are also two-item limits on pasta, rice, flour, sugar, milk, chicken, eggs, frozen food, tissues, hand sanitiser and liquid soaps.
Woolworths returned product limits to all Victorian stores.
“The move follows a surge in demand across Victoria overnight and will help ensure more customers have fair access to fresh food and essentials at Woolworths,” the supermarket said on Wednesday.
“We have more than enough stock flowing from our distribution centres into stores to support all our customers’ food and grocery needs. We encourage all our customers to continue shopping as they usually would.”
Shoppers at Woolworths stores will only be able to buy two packets each of frozen food, pre-packed meats, carrots, potatoes, milk, sliced bread, tissues, chilled juice, pasta, eggs, flour, rice, sugar, paper towel, and hand sanitiser. Toilet paper was still limited to two at Woolworths stores around the country.
Coles said it would continue to monitor stock at other stores and asked shoppers to treat staff with respect and adhere to social distancing in stores.
Melburnians depleted stock of some supermarket products following the announcement of renewed restrictions on Tuesday night, but many items remained in plentiful supply. Supermarket workers said frenzied buying was mild compared to the initial bout in March.
Toilet paper, potatoes, tomatoes and bread were running low at six supermarkets across inner-eastern Melbourne. Meat and pasta stocks appeared largely unaffected and most items were still widely available, bar a few exceptions.
Workers at Woolworths in Hawthorn East and Coles in Richmond said there was a rush of customers in the late afternoon and early evening. Both workers said supermarkets were better prepared for over-buying and had extra stock to replenish shelves.
Hitesh Palta – owner of the IGA Altona store in Melbourne’s south-western suburbs, the first store in Australia to introduce elderly-only hours at the start of the pandemic – said there were signs that some people had begun unnecessarily filling their shopping trolleys again.
“There are some customers getting panicked but we do tell them there’s plenty of stock,” Mr Palta said on Tuesday afternoon, shortly after Premier Daniel Andrews announced stage three lockdown would return from 11.59pm on Wednesday.
“We’ve got plenty of stock, nobody is going without anything. Everything is fully stocked up.”
Sales jumped about 20 per cent in the past two weeks, compared with the previous fortnight, but he said that was nothing compared with the 300 per cent jump his store experienced in March.
Mr Palta hoped stores don’t experience that rush again. “There’s no need to panic buy, just buy what you need,” he said.
Coles had earlier struggled to get chilled and fresh produce on the shelves of Victorian and Tasmanian stores after a cluster of six coronavirus cases was connected to its chilled distribution centre in Laverton.
A significant proportion of staff at the distribution centre self-isolated at home as a precaution, which meant the centre could not operate at normal capacity.
Lincoln Wymer, the operations manager of the Reddrop Group, with 17 independent supermarkets in Victoria and NSW, spent Tuesday afternoon preparing for the lockdown announcement.
He had yet to see a reaction from shoppers.
There had been an increase in toilet paper sales again over the past two weeks, he said, but he hoped that would just be a blip after the initial panic-buying in March.
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Rachel is a city reporter for The Age.
Paul is a reporter for The Age.