Coles, Woolworths bring back product limits as supermarkets flood

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Coles and Woolworths have imposed new product limits in NSW and Queensland flood-affected stores after supermarkets were water damaged and supply chains cut.

Residents in Brisbane and Lismore — the two hardest hit areas — posted numerous images of empty supermarket shelves online and say they fear they’re going to run out of food soon.

“Pretty much all left in Coles yesterday was a few empty-handed stragglers,” a Brisbane woman wrote alongside images of an almost entirely bare Coles store.

Lismore Coles flooded with water and empty Woolworths shelves.
More than 150 Coles stores have been affected by the heavy rainfall and flooding. Source: Sunrise/Twitter

With supermarkets in Lismore underwater and supplies unable to come down from Brisbane, these flood-affected areas are going to run out of food soon. This is what we're looking at today,” a Lismore woman posted with photos of an empty meat section.

A third shopper from Casino, just outside Lismore, said the town’s Coles and Woolworths are “almost empty” and people had left without being able to buy anything.

We need basics and pet supplies-food, hygiene, cat litter, dog food, cleaning products,” she said.

“The next challenge for northern rivers communities,” another woman added.

Coles product limits in selected NSW and QLD stores

The following limits are per customer and are being applied in stores affected by floods:

  • Paper towels 2 packs

  • Facial tissues 2 packs

  • Flour 2 packs

  • Rice 2 packs

  • Long life milk 4 packs

  • Fresh milk 2 packs

  • Bulk or multipack still water 1 pack

  • Mince 2 packs

  • Sausages 2 packs

  • Chicken thighs from meat department 2 packs

  • Chicken breasts from meat department 2 packs

  • Chicken thighs from deli 6 packs

  • Chicken breasts from deli 6 packs

  • Limits already in place:

  • Toilet paper 1 pack

  • Paracetamol 2 packs

  • Bulk water 1 pack

Woolworths employees dump flood-damaged food in Maryborough, 220 km north of Brisbane, on January 11, 2022.
Woolworths employees dump flood-damaged food from the Maryborough store in January. Source: AAP

More than 60 Coles stores have been affected by floods in Queensland. To see if your store is included, click here.

Fourteen Coles stores have been affected in NSW, including Lismore, Murwillumbah, Ocean Shores and Yamba.

Woolworths expands product limits

Woolworths has expanded purchase limits on a range of categories in stores in southern Queensland and northern NSW where supply lines have been impacted by ongoing floods and road closures, a Woolworths spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.

The supermarket chain says it is working to move as much stock as possible to affected regions.

The following limits are per customer and apply to all Queensland stores and select NSW stores:

  • Paper towels 2 packs

  • Facial tissues 2 packs

  • Flour 2 packs

  • Rice 2 packs

  • Long life milk 2 packs

  • Fresh milk 2 packs

  • Mince 2 packs

  • Sausages 2 packs

  • Chicken breasts 2 packs

  • Chicken thighs 2 packs

  • Paracetamol 2 packs

  • Toilet paper 1 pack

  • Bulk or multipack still water 1 pack

“As floods continue to ravage the east coast, critical supply lines into northern NSW and throughout Queensland have been impacted by road closures, limiting how quickly we can get stock into flood affected regions,” Woolworths Director of Stores Jeanette Fenske said.

“To help ensure more customers have access to food and essentials, we’ve introduced product limits on select categories across Queensland and select northern NSW stores while we work through these disruptions.

“We have contingency plans in place and are doing everything we can to safely get stock into our stores via alternative road routes. We know the coming days are expected to bring more extreme weather as rain travels south and we will continue to monitor the situation closely, planning ahead for potential disruptions in NSW.

“We thank customers for their understanding and encourage them to be mindful of others in the community and only buy what they need.

“Our thoughts are with all those impacted by these devastating floods, including many of our own team members, as we work to support communities during this exceptionally challenging time. ”

Coles hoping to 'restock as fast as possible'

Coles’ Chief Operations Officer Matthew Swindells told Sunrise on Wednesday that “150 stores across Coles supermarkets, express and our liquor business at some point or another have had to close” because of the unprecedented flooding.

“About 1000 team members aren’t able to safely access their work. So that’s one part.

“The second part then is that the train line that runs into far North Queensland out of Brisbane and south into New South Wales, that’s gone,” he said, adding that it’s “disruption on a number of levels”.

Mr Swindells said product limits were imposed to make sure customers can get the essentials they need.

He said Coles has trucks loaded with essentials “ready to go” but need to find a way of delivering the items safely.

“So we’ll do the clean-up and we’ll do the restock as fast as possible for the community and our team members,” he added.

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