We could split this answer into two realities: one reality for small and local retailers; and a very different one for global and larger corporations.
During February and March, the news of COVID-19 by internet and media arrived much earlier than official information offered by the government, causing hesitation for some suppliers (i.e. local and family-owned companies). Meanwhile, many other businesses (mainly multinationals) were more alert to the spread of the pandemic and had already started to prepare for the work-from-home protocol. Only factory and logistics personnel would be required to be present at their places of work.
The same thing happened to the retailers as many of them were not clear about which direction to take. The lack of clarity offered by the federal government did not help them in their decision making. Some global retailers had already prepared a scenario that allowed others to apply some learnings. It is crucial to mention that retailers such as Walmart had been investing in the development of their e-commerce infrastructure for several years, so when this “wave” arrived and accelerated the process, they were more prepared for the switch to online.
Even so, the vast quantities of goods that people purchased at points of sale caused shortages because shoppers were seeking products that were not always considered “essential.” There was an example where a Cash and Carry POS was asked for up to eight times its inventory capacity in a single day. In addition to basic products, other categories were also in high demand. Logistical structures had to be made in coordination with suppliers to ensure the supply of nearly all supermarket categories.
The Mexican government’s position was the last announcement to be made as they minimized the situation throughout March. Thus, their official position on the crisis and advising of the necessary business protocol was delayed well into the spring. Despite this, retailers took matters into their own hands and quickly decided to apply clear hygiene measures so consumers could continue to visit their stores. In stores, hand sanitizer was available, temperatures were measured, and people were required to wear a face mask. In the beginning, this caused a severe shortage of PPE, which also caused more panic purchases. During the various interviews that we have had with retailers, they told us about how several suppliers were surprised to see that their categories had started to improve for no apparent reason, leading to a shortage of certain products in the market.