Supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles have given hope life may be returning to normal after broadening their home delivery service for online customers.
Coles this week reopened its home delivery and “click and collect” services to all customers, after having previously limited orders for vulnerable and remote Australians because of the COVID-19 crisis.
Woolworths has followed suit, announcing on Wednesday it will make “tens of thousands of extra weekly home delivery windows for online customers”.
Woolworths will use a new partnership with 5000 Sherpa and Drive Yello drivers to help meet soaring demand for online groceries. It says this deal, along with recent boosts to its existing home delivery network, has doubled its online capacity in just a month.
“We’re seeing a big increase in demand for home delivery as more and more customers seek to limit their outings in the community,” WooliesX managing director Amanda Bardwell said.
“While our first priority remains the most vulnerable in the community, we can now serve more of our regular online customers … as well.”
Both supermarkets restricted online and “click-and-collect” orders to priority customers amid panic buying in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
They also limited hours and introduced “community shopping” times for vulnerable customers, emergency workers and even tradespeople. Many of those restrictions remain in place.
Coles announced its resumption of a more normal service on Tuesday. But there was a warning for customers – it might not be able to fulfil all orders.
“Coles is experiencing high demand for all products. As a result, we are unable to guarantee that you will receive all items in your order,” it said in an email to customers.
Coles online and strategic projects general manager Karen Donaldson said the return of wider online services had come after reorganising delivery windows and recruiting hundreds of staff to meet increased demand.
Among Woolworths’ changes is a 7000-square-metre warehouse in Melbourne’s Notting Hill, which it will use to fill more than 5000 orders a week.
The pop-up delivery hub will not be open to the public and will employ 400 people. It will be open by the end of the week.
“[It] is designed to complement the incredible work our online teams have been doing for our Priority Assistance customers in Victoria,” Ms Bardwell said.
The company will monitor customer feedback to see if the concept should be introduced elsewhere in Australia.