The Australian Retailers Association has warned against panic buying as many rushed to supermarkets to stock up on essentials in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
It is understood in supermarkets across Canberra shelves were emptied of toilet paper, hand sanitiser, hand wash and tinned food. A trend echoed in supermarkets nationwide.
Social media was flooded with images of empty shelves on Monday and Tuesday.
Woolworths has placed a four-pack limit on toilet paper in store and online to make supplies available for more customers. Kimberly-Clark, which manufactures toilet paper, is opening up their manufacturing lines in South Australia to deal with the shortages.
But customers had "no need to panic" according to Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman. He said he had received assurances from major supermarket chains that warehouse inventories remained high.
"We're comfortable there's no risk to the availability of food or household essentials," he said.
"If a brand you wish to purchase isn't available today, it'll probably be back on the shelf tomorrow.
"There is still plenty of stock in distribution centres to supply retailers of essential items across the country."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had spoken with Coles and Woolworths on Tuesday about the supply shortages seen on social media, and said they were not as widespread as the images suggested.
However, he acknowledged there would be some supply chains "tested" in the short term.
"Australians should continue to go about their lives and our normal way and just exercise common sense," Mr Morrison said.
Ainslie IGA manager Manuel Xyrakis said there had been a surge in business on Monday night.
"We were hammered and we had every checkout going and it was a very very busy," he said.
"Monday night is generally a busy night but it was just busier and it sort of reminded me of Christmas Eve, which is our biggest day of the year."
Mr Xyrakis said it he had noticed an uptick in sales of non-perishable foods, as well as toilet paper.
There were also no hand sanitisers in stock on Monday afternoon.
"Hand sanitisers we are selling more than we ever dreamed of selling, what we might sell in a year we sold in a week," Mr Xyrakis said.
"We checked our sales over the weekend and people bought multiple liquid hand sanitisers.
"Right now we don't have any on the shelves at all, we keep on ordering more from our different suppliers but it is hit and miss. You may order 20 boxes but you only get one, but at other times we don't get anything at all."
But there was no problem with getting other stock, Mr Xyrakis said. He also warned against panic buying.
"Our shop is still very well stocked, we're still getting our supplies from our wholesalers five days a week," he said.
"We don't really want people to panic buy, just be sensible about it. By all means have a couple of staples in your pantry but don't go crazy about it."