Retail giant Wesfarmers has been forced to fly in hundreds of thousands of face masks as sales rocket at its hardware chain Bunnings after thick smoke haze blankets capital cities.
Wesfarmers, which also owns safety wear seller Blackwoods, has said demand for face masks and respirators has been “through the roof”.
Chief executive Rob Scott told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald the company had been forced to fly in additional stock from overseas suppliers from Europe, US and China to keep up with demand from inner-city shoppers and people in bushfire-affected regions.
“Blackwoods had orders for many hundred thousand respirators and there simply aren’t that many lying around, so we’ve had to air freight product in from offshore to keep up with demand,” Mr Scott said.
Purchases of protective P2 and N95 particulate masks are typically limited to tradespeople and those with respiratory problems, so the rush of shoppers has led to a dramatic lift in sales.
“It’s through the roof. There’s a quantum more [sold] than we would ordinarily sell,” Mr Scott said.
Blackwoods has also been prioritising the delivery of respirators to bushfire-affected areas, with the company estimating more than 125,000 had been delivered in recent weeks.
Californian-based medical aid charity Direct Relief has also donated 160,000 N95/P2 face masks to the bushfire efforts, with Qantas flying in 100,000 masks into Melbourne on Wednesday.
Demand for other products such as gas bottles and tarpaulins has also been high, he said.
Mr Scott said large organisations had been buying face masks for staff as precautionary measures.
Workwear and safety business RSEA has also seen a massive increase in respirator sales. The company, which operates 51 stores across Australia, has seen sales in P2 masks increase 200 per cent in the last three months.
Sales of the masks in the first nine days of January have already doubled all of December’s sales, a spokesperson said.
Protective masks aren’t the only bushfire-related product to go rushing off shelves in recent weeks. Harvey Norman founder Gerry Harvey told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald in December air purifiers had sold out in his stores across the country.
Wesfarmers is one of the many Australian retailers making significant donations to the bushfire appeal, with Bunnings alone already raising $600,000 at a nationwide sausage sizzle in November. Another sausage sizzle is planned for January 24.
Discount department stores Kmart and Target, both Wesfarmers-owned, have also made a $100,000 donation and will match all contributions made by customers in-store.
“In these situations, you don’t worry about sales and profit, you focus on the safety of your team and how you can support the communities you operate in,” said Mr Scott, who has also personally donated to the bushfire appeal.
“You put it all aside and just do what’s right.”
Similarly, supermarket giant Coles announced on Thursday it would contribute $2 for every $1 donated by customers in-store to the Red Cross, taking total direct donations to over $1.5 million. This is in addition to the $3 million in gift cards the company has donated to volunteer firefighters.
Source: Thanks smh.com