THE boss of a cleaning supplies company has hit out at the “daylight robbery” that he says is going on during the coronavirus crisis.

Wessex Cleaning Equipment and Janitorial Supplies usually supplies the trade sector but has recently seen individuals queuing up at its site in Northam to buy toilet rolls after shoppers cleared many supermarket shelves.

The business has also seen a huge rise in demand for products that help with infection control.

But director Mark Powell said it was being asked by some suppliers to pay much more for everyday items.

He said: “We’ve rented additional storage – 75 pallets to service the various orders we’re receiving.

“Where we’re having to go to every possible source to get products in the quantity customers are looking for, some of them are daylight robbery. We’re maintaining our normal margin.

“If we’re dealing with our normal suppliers, they’re fine. It happens as soon as you pick other suppliers.”

He said he was being charged for £5 by some suppliers for paper masks which normally cost 50p, even though they offer little protection against viruses. He applies his normal margin, bringing the price to £5.50.

Meanwhile, toilet rolls have become “like gold bullion” and he has donated some to foodbanks.

Some trade customers were inflating their usual orders, he said.

“We know the customers inside out and they’re quadrupling their orders but we’re rationing it out,” he said.

“If you want to buy 100 toilet rolls and you normally buy 20, we’re going to say ‘How many will keep you going?’.

“It’s quite often me saying to the customer, not ‘What do you want?’ but ‘What do you need?’

“With the toilet rolls, it’s not that a side effect of the virus makes toilet visits more frequent. It’s people thinking they may not be able or allowed to go to the shops, so what do they need, what do they not want to run out of?

“The offices that we supply aren’t using as much as many have arranged for their staff to work from home. There’s probably a bit of pilfering going on,” he added.

Mr Powell praised his regular suppliers, staff and customers for their response to the coronavirus crisis.

Prime minister Boris Johnson has already warned against “profiteering” while the Competition and Markets Authority has launched a taskforce to look into the issue.