Coles hiring 5,000 casuals as supermarkets grant special access to the vulnerable

Posted: 17th Mar

Woolworths and Coles have introduced special hours in their supermarkets to ensure that seniors and people with disabilities will be able to shop in less crowded aisles during the coronavirus pandemic.

From Tuesday onwards, Woolworths stores will open exclusively to the elderly and those with a disability from 7:00am to 8:00am daily, and from Wednesday Coles will do likewise from 8:00am to 9:00am.

Woolworths said patrons would be granted access by showing a relevant, government-issued seniors, pensioner or disability card, while other shoppers will not be able to enter until after 8:00am.

Coles also said it would be hiring more than 5,000 casual team members to help deal with demand.

The move comes after scenes of panic-buying, clashes between shoppers and scuffles over toilet paper, as Australians look to stock up on products as a result of the fear of shortages, due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Coles has also limited the purchasing of pasta, rice, flour, paper towels, hand sanitiser, eggs, frozen vegetables, frozen desserts and mince to two packs per person.

Toilet paper remains at one pack per person for both supermarket chains, while Woolworths has yet to place limits on frozen goods or eggs.

Australia's coronavirus death toll hit five overnight, with Victoria declaring a state of emergency after more than 70 confirmed cases in the state, and the ACT making a public health emergency declaration.

Woolworths said the new hours would be in place until at least March 20.

"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," Woolworths Supermarkets managing director Claire Peters said.

"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."

Last week, Woolworths announced that it was working with Meals on Wheels in New South Wales to help deliver toilet paper directly to the elderly in the community.

The new schedule will mean that most Australians will have less time to shop in their supermarkets.

Those Woolworths branches that usually operate from 6:00am on weekdays will now open their doors an hour later — and only for the select group of shoppers.

There are no plans to extend operating hours.

"We'd like to thank our customers for their patience and apologise for any inconvenience caused by the revised opening hours," 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."

National Seniors Australia praised the Woolworths initiative and said it hoped that other retailers would do the same.

"We applaud the move by Woolworths because it is much needed and we would urge others to follow suit," National Seniors Australia CEO Professor John McCallum told the ABC.

"This is not the time for others to be selfish."

Rival supermarket brand IGA is considering rolling out a similar scheme across its 1,300 Australian stores.

It is being trialled at its branch in Altona, in Melbourne, from Tuesday until April 7.

On weekends, the one-hour timeslot for seniors and people with disabilities moves forward to the first opening hour of Woolworths stores — 7:00am on Saturday and 8:00am on Sunday.

Source: ABC News - https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-16/coronavius-sees-woolworths-introduce-special-hours-for-seniors/12059252