Coles reintroduces product limits but no new plans for Woolworths

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Coles has reimposed limits on certain products as exploding Covid-19 case numbers across the country force tens of thousands of people into isolation, resulting in a lack of staff in hospitality, healthcare and retail.

The supermarket giant said it made the decision "due to high demand", and the temporary product limits on meat and rapid antigen tests would apply to in-store and online shoppers.

“Thank you for your patience. We ask that customers continue to respect and support our team members, particularly in these busier times,” Coles said in a statement on its website.

Shoppers walk past at a Coles supermarket in Canberra on August 18, 2021.
Coles has imposed temporary product limits on meat and rapid antigen tests. Source: AAP

Coles product limits include:

  • Hough Covid-19 Home Test Kit — one pack (excluding WA)

  • Chicken breasts — two packs

  • Chicken thighs— two packs

  • Mince — two packs

  • Sausages — two packs

Coles Chief Operating Officer Matthew Swindells told The Today Show on Thursday morning the supermarket was “facing number of supply chain challenges already – a shortage of pallets and a shortage of truck drivers”.

"[After the Christmas rush] we’re somewhat on the back foot trying to make sure that we can keep the food supply lines going. We’ve got probably another couple difficult weeks," he said.

Mr Swindells said Coles stores on the east coast had been most affected, especially in NSW and Greater Sydney.

The Transport Workers Union told 9News up to 50 per cent of truck drivers were unable to work at the moment due to Covid isolation.

Sparse shelves are seen in a Coles store.
The supermarket giant said it made the decision 'due to high demand'. Source: 9 News

Woolworths will not reimpose product limits

Woolworths told Yahoo News Australia it would not be reinstating product limits despite the impacts on supply chains.

The supermarket has only allowed one rapid antigen test per customer since they started selling the product last year.

“Our customers have been shopping in reasonable quantities and are only buying what they need, so we don’t believe product limits are needed at this stage. We will continue to closely monitor product availability across our stores,” a Woolworths spokesperson said.

“While we are experiencing some delays with stock deliveries to our stores due to Covid-19 impacts across the supply chain, deliveries continue to arrive daily.

“Stores may have reduced availability of some products at points throughout the day before they receive their next delivery, however we’re continuing to restock our shelves as often as possible.

“We ask our customers to be mindful of others and continue shopping normally as they have been.”

A screenshot for a Reddit post shows bare shelves in a fresh produce aisle in a Woolworths store.
A photo posted to Reddit shows a fruit and vegetable shelf in a Woolworths store almost completely bare. Source: Reddit

Photos of empty supermarket shelves go viral

Concerns arose over supermarket supplies earlier this week when worried shoppers in Sydney snapped photos of empty shelves.

A photo posted to Reddit shows a fruit and vegetable shelf in a Woolworths store almost completely bare.

"Anyone know what's going on?" the person asked, who said a friend took the photo while getting supplies because they were in self isolation.

One user commented on the post saying they work in a Woolworths warehouse and are running on skeleton staff.

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