Major supermarket retailers are enforcing strict trading measures in an attempt to curb the panic buying which has striped shelves and left many unable to access essentials.
Woolworths this morning introduced a special trading hour, allowing only the elderly or disabled to shop between 7am-8am, in a bid to help vulnerable community members to purchase in demand items such as toilet paper, pasta, canned goods and non-perishables, without the unprecedented crowds seen in recent weeks.
The trading will run until at least Friday, with the possibility of extension, in selected stores and will see only customers with a valid and relevant government issued concession card granted access. It follows the retailer pairing with Meals on Wheels (in NSW) to help deliver toilet paper to the elderly. They have also suspended the click and collect service.
Woolworths Supermarkets managing director Claire Peters said the decision was made as, despite efforts to constantly restock and product purchase limits, they were aware elderly customers were still missing out.
“This temporary measure will give them, and those with a disability, the opportunity to shop before our stores officially open – helping them obtain the essential items they need most in a less crowded environment,” Ms Peters said.
“We continue to encourage all Australians to be mindful of those in our communities who might need extra help at this time. Now – more than ever – we need to be kind to each other, especially to those most vulnerable.
“We’d like to thank our customers for their patience and apologise for any inconvenience caused by the revised opening hours.”
Coles have followed and will start a ‘community hour’ from tomorrow, allowing the elderly and disadvantaged exclusive access. They have also changed their opening hours, to between 7am-8pm, allowing stores to restock at night.
The retailer are also holding a recruitment drive for more than 5,000 casuals to help keep pace with demand, while home delivery will only be available to those deemed in genuine need and click and collect services are temporarily suspended.
Despite government reassurances there are no shortages panic buying continues to plague supermarkets. Crowded conditions and reduced stock are fuelling rage amongst customers. A 39-year-old man was charged with common assault following a brawl at checkout line at a Woolworths store in Bass Hill, in Sydney’s south-west last weekend.
Coles have taken to Twitter to remind customers they will not refund change-of-mind purchases, due to current demands and asking customers to “be kind.” And have extended their purchase limits to meat.
“There is enough for everyone if people shop as they normally shop. Please be kind to our team members in store and our Customer Service teams online, in our call centres and on social media,” they states.