Coles and Woolworths roll out drastic plan to combat panic buying chaos

Coles and Woolworths will be closing early to restock their shelves as shoppers clear out stores amid the coronavirus crisis.

In their latest update, Coles announced their supermarkets would close no later than 8pm to "give our team members the time and space to extensively clean our stores and replenish the shelves for customers the next day”.

From Wednesday, trading hours will be temporarily changed to a 7am open and an 8pm close on weekdays.

At all Coles supermarkets, the first hour will be dedicated to a “Community Hour” initiative – which aims to give the elderly and disadvantaged better access to groceries.

In parts of Queensland and Western Australia where trading hour restrictions apply, “Community Hour” will be between 8am and 9am.

A similar program will be rolled out by Woolworths.

Furthermore, the supermarket giant is hiring more than 5000 new casual staff members to help keep up with the replenishing of shelves.

Coles also announced it would be suspending its online shopping service, except for "those in genuine need, especially the most vulnerable and those isolated".

“We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience that this will cause and a further announcement about this will be made in the coming days,” its website said.

Coles will also temporarily halt its Click&Collect orders because of lower in-store availabilities.

Additionally, the supermarket’s UberEats delivery services will be stopped.

Woolworths closing early on Wednesday

Meanwhile Woolworths will also be closing its stores nationally at 8pm on Wednesday and reopen on Thursday at 7am in a bid to replenish shelves, a spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.

“From Wednesday, we’ll be closing all of our stores at 8pm, with the exception of Brisbane Airport, Town Hall and QV Melbourne,” they said.

“These early closures will help ensure our team members have the time and space they need to properly restock shelves for the next day’s trade.”

This move by Woolworths is expected to continue indefinitely as the retailer battles to keep up with record sales that on the weekend exceeded Christmas and any other sales in the past 12 months.

Two Coles shoppers are walking inside an Adelaide store where the toilet paper aisle is empty.
Empty toilet paper shelves at Coles supermarket in Adelaide on March 13. Source: AAP Image/Kelly Barnes

“We want to slow the panic down,” Woolworths managing director Claire Peters said on Monday, reported.

“We understand that our customers’ priority is to be prepared, but the vast majority of our food is grown or manufactured in Australia so there is not a concern with supply. What we have is a spike in demand.”

Earlier, Woolworths confirmed it would also suspend its “click and collect” services across Australia.

- with Tom Flanagan

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