Ece Demir - 6 Apr, 2020

Coles and Woolworths set up Online Store for Vulnerable Shoppers

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Supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles have implemented an online priority scheme to help support the elderly, people with disability and those who are required to self-isolate as a result of COVID-19.

After more than a fortnight of suspended resources which have left supermarkets stripped of stock, due to panic buying from COVID-19, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission gave the approval late Monday evening to organise stock coordination between these retailers.

The retailers covered include Coles, Woolworths, Aldi and Metcash (IGA), “and it will also apply to any other grocery retailer wishing to participate.” the ACCC said in their recent media release.

“Australia’s supermarkets have experienced unprecedented demand for groceries in recent weeks, both in store and online, which has led to shortages of some products and disruption to delivery services,” said ACCC Chairman Rod Sims.

“This is essentially due to unnecessary panic buying, and the logistics challenge this presents, rather than an underlying supply problem.”

Both supermarkets have now aided by introducing an online priority service, in addition to the community hour shopping periods.

Woolworths and Coles have detailed that the online priority service will only eligible for priority customers and will further try to expand to other members of the community.

Currently, each supermarket has a quick and easy online form that must be completed to assess eligibility for the service.

The online forms also ask for the customer to supply any supporting documentation to assist the Woolworths and Coles teams with assessing the application and suitability will be evaluated within 48 hours.

The link to the Woolworths application form can be accessed here, and the link to the Coles application form can be accessed here.

The Coles Online Priority Service (COPS) is now the only delivery service from Coles, as unprecedented demands of online orders caused the retailer to halt their Click & Collect services as well as Home Delivery.

“We’re looking to deliver food and grocery essentials to elderly and vulnerable members of the community, including retirement and nursing homes as soon as possible, hopefully by the end of the week,” Coles said in a statement on its website on Tuesday.

“Our priority is ensuring we can offer a good range of everyday grocery essentials with high availability to our customers who find it difficult to shop in-store.”

The stores will still have Remote Delivery available to customers by using a 3rd party delivery provider.

Amongst other services, the Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci and Coles Group CEO Steven Cain, have already implemented an early shopping hour for the elderly and disadvantaged.

The shopping period for vulnerable and elderly customers are held on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Coles have also followed suit by announcing a two Community Hour shopping period every week for emergency services and healthcare workers.

The Community Hour shopping period is for the first hour of trade every Tuesday and Thursday and started on March 26th, giving a chance for these workers to have exclusive access to the supermarket.

Coles Group CEO Steven Cain said, “in the past week we have seen Community Hour help vulnerable and elderly Australians access essential grocery items during this challenging time. We are now extending this opportunity to those Australians who are protecting our community and keeping us safe.”

“We know these workers are incredibly busy and hope that providing them with a dedicated hour at the beginning of the day to shop will make their lives a little easier and support the vital work they are doing every day.”

All retailers and organisations have been tasked with the grappling duty of creating services and shopping periods to help support the Australian customers.

ACCC Chairman Rod Sims acknowledge the united effort from the traditionally rival businesses stating “We recognise and appreciate that individual supermarket chains have already taken a number of important steps to mitigate the many issues caused by panic buying. We believe allowing these businesses to work together to discuss further solutions is appropriate and necessary at this time.”

Find out how the big banks are helping their customers here.

Words by Ece Demir

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