In order to meet the unprecedented demand in groceries over recent weeks, supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles have made noticeable changes to their weekly specials as they struggle to cope with customer demand during the COVID-19 epidemic.
Both supermarkets have introduced a number of measures to help customers including dedicated community shopping hours, priority home delivery and placing limits on a range of high-demand items but frustration continues to grow as shelves remain empty around Australia.
Woolworths and Coles made the decision to not print hard copies of their weekly specials catalogue admitting they may not be able to provide the items included in the weekly promotions and instead, want to focus on their customers’ immediate needs.
Woolworths resetting stock
A Woolworths spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia it is re-evaluating stock handling during the period of intense customer demand, which doesn’t seem to have an end in sight.
“As we reset our stock position after weeks of unprecedented demand, we're working to reinstate many of the specials our customers know and love,” a Woolworths spokesperson said.
Part of the struggle is not being able to supply what Woolworths describes as a ‘full catalogue’ of products to promote to all customers, in all locations and online.
“Due to the challenges we’re all experiencing, we are unable to support a full catalogue of products as we can’t ensure they will be available in all our stores” a notice in the digital version of the Woolworths catalogue reads.
The current online Woolworths catalogue contains 29 pages, while previous catalogues contained around 36.
“So we have made the decision to temporarily stop the printing and distribution of our regular catalogue to households for the time being,” the online notice reads.
A Woolworths spokesperson told Yahoo News it understands the challenges facing Australian households during the coronavirus outbreak and will still offer competitive pricing, with more specials included in the following weeks.
“This week we have hundreds of items on special in our catalogue and we expect more to follow in the weeks ahead,” a spokesperson for Woolworths said
“We continue to offer thousands of everyday low prices on key essentials through our Prices Dropped and Low Price Always programs.”
Coles chief operations officer Matthew Swindells recently compared the scale of customer demand to three holiday seasons worth of stock leaving the store, without the preparation the supermarket usually puts in place.
"We have done three Christmases in three consecutive weeks from a standing start,” Mr Swindells told the Seven Network.
"When you see that immediate lift in demand across a network as large as Coles, it punches a huge stock hole in our supply lines and it takes time to recover."
As part of shifting the focus, Coles has provided online versions of its weekly catalogue from mid March amid uncertainty over stock levels.
“We are focusing on providing our customers with access to essential items. We regret that due to unprecedented demand some of the advertised products may be unavailable,” a notice in store read.
A Coles spokesperson told Yahoo News despite the digital only versions of the catalogues, it was continuing to provide as many promotions as usual.
“Coles is committed to offering our customers excellent value and meal solutions, with more people staying home and looking for inspiration when it comes to lunch and dinners for their families.”
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