Supermarkets and pharmacies in NSW and South Australia will be able to stay open for 24 hours to make it easier for consumers to buy food and medical supplies during the coronavirus pandemic.
The cutting of usual planning controls that restrict trading hours was announced by Planning Minister Rob Stokes on Wednesday.
“These orders cut red tape so we can move quickly and decisively to ensure the health, wellbeing and safety of our community during this time,” Mr Stokes said in a statement.
“The focus of our first order is giving people the flexibility to visit their local supermarket, pharmacy or corner store at any time of day if those retail premises choose to operate for extended hours.”
Mr Stokes said the change would also provide greater flexibility for home-based businesses to operate at any time and expand their business as necessary.
“For those businesses operating out of home, we are facilitating more flexible operating hours and increasing the number of people working together from two to five, providing they can abide by the social distancing rules,” the minister said.
“This is important as more and more people work from home and need flexible working arrangements.”
Supermarkets in South Australia temporarily have the option to trade 24/7 throughout the week, and from 12am to 9pm on Saturdays and 9am to 9pm on Sundays.
The temporary trade times began on March 21 and are set to run until April 19.
“While we don't expect all supermarkets to take up the option of 24-hour trading, extended hours will also assist with supply of grocery stock,” Treasurer Rob Lucas said.
“We expect this exemption will also support local jobs, with the potential for more shifts for those employees who'd like to work additional hours over the next few weeks.”
What this means for Woolies and Coles
A Woolworths spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia the change would benefit staff and shoppers and it was continuing to assess its hours on a frequent basis.
“We welcome the NSW Government’s decision to provide much-needed operational flexibility to respond to events as they continue to unfold,” they said.
“We're looking at our trading hours week-to-week and will continue to adjust them as needed.
“The government’s recent move to waive delivery curfews and now allowing the collection of waste from stores 24/7 will deliver immediate practical benefits for our shoppers and store teams.”
Coles said while it appreciated the show of support from the government, it would not yet be making any changes to its hours of trade.
“We appreciate the flexibility around trading hours and thank the federal, state and local governments for their rapid action to help us continue to serve customers during these challenging times,” a spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.
Hours adjusted for community benefit
Coles last week cut trading hours nationally to allow more time for stores to be extensively cleaned and for shelves to be adequately replenished.
“In particular this ensures cleanliness for our elderly and vulnerable customers attending our Community Hour in the first hour of trade,” they said.
The move followed the first hour of trade being dedicated to elderly and disabled customers, who will continue to have priority shopping on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Woolworths spearheaded the initiative last week, becoming the first to have dedicated shopping times for elderly and disabled customers.
The retailer has also slashed hours across 41 stores in a move to dedicate more resources to getting groceries to the people who needed them most.
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