Supermarkets Woolworths and Coles have changed their trading hours to help seniors and the disabled shop for necessities in less crowded aisles during the coronavirus outbreak.
Woolies first announced it will open its doors an hour early from 7am (weekdays), exclusively for the elderly and disadvantaged groups starting today (March 17).
This will apply to customers who hold any of the following government-issued concession cards:
- Pensioner Concession Card
- Commonwealth Seniors Health Card
- Health Care Card
- Companion Card
Woolworths Supermarkets Managing Director, Claire Peters, said the measure will ensure the vulnerable in the community get the opportunity to shop before stores officially open in less crowded environments.
We’re launching a dedicated shopping hour in our stores to help support the needs of the elderly & people with disability in the community. From tomorrow until at least friday, we’ll be opening exclusively for them to shop from 7-8am, where permitted.
— Woolworths (@woolworths) March 15, 2020
“While we’ll continue to do our very best to restock our stores during this period of unprecedented demand, we know many of our elderly customers have been missing out on essential items when they shop,” she said.
Coles soon followed suit, announcing its own ‘community hour’ also between 7am and 8am weekdays. But in Western Australia and certain parts of Queensland, the ‘community hour’ will be between 8am and 9am.
Both supermarkets have also announced they will shut doors at 8pm every night, with staff needing more time to restock shelves and clean stores to deal with the surge in demand for products.
Woolworths’ new trading hours will be in place until at least Friday (March 20), when opening arrangements will be reviewed. Supermarket brand IGA is also considering rolling out a similar scheme across its 1,300 Australian stores.
Coles confirmed it will review its trading hours as necessary. CEO Steven Cain said the ‘community hour’ aims to improve access to essential groceries for those in need.
“We believe all Australians deserve the right to access their share of grocery items, particularly the elderly, the vulnerable and those who need some extra help during this challenging time,” he said.
From Wednesday the first hour of trade in all Coles supermarkets will be exclusively open to the elderly & disabled. “Community Hour” will help improve access during this time of unprecedented demand. Stores will also close no later than 8pm so team members can clean & restock.
— Coles Supermarkets (@Coles) March 16, 2020
Coles will also temporarily suspend online shopping, instead dedicating its delivery service to those in genuine need, and will also no longer accept Click and Collect orders.
The supermarket has announced it is recruiting over 5,000 casual team members to work in its supermarkets to restock empty shelves during the COVID-19 crisis.
With product shortages reported across the country, most major supermarkets including ALDI and Costco have imposed further shopping limits on household staples like pasta, rice and even mince. Toilet paper remains limited to one pack per customer.
Picture credit: Daria Ni / Shutterstock.com.au.