Woolworths' major online shopping move to combat Omicron shortage

Woolworths customers who shop online will notice a change to the ordering process this week, as the grocery giant has implemented a new initiative in response to the Omicron variant.

An announcement made by Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci on Thursday detailed the changes customers will notice, whilst addressing staff shortages.

“If you’re shopping online, as a temporary measure we are automatically activating substitutions on all orders,” he said.

“We know this isn’t ideal, but it does mean there’s less chance of missing out on something you really need. We’ll revert to your preference as soon as possible.”

Empty produce fridge shelf in a Woolworths that has been stripped bare of salad kits and bagged lettuce. Source: Facebook
Woolworths customers have been sharing photos of bare shelves on social media this week. Source: Facebook

He urged customers to be ‘flexible’ when ordering groceries, and asked for patience as the grocer navigates the Omicron variant.

“Even if your favourite isn’t available, a good alternative hopefully should be, so it really helps if you can be flexible with the choices you make,” he said.

“We would of course also ask you to keep shopping as you normally would and to continue to show kindness to our teams.”

Mr Banducci’s announcement follows harrowing photographs of bare supermarket shelves circulating on social media, which were addressed in the announcement.

Empty bread section in a supermarket. Source: Getty Images
Mr Banducci assured customers that the gaps are due to staff in isolation, and is not related to stock shortages. Source: Getty Images

“When you’re shopping with us at the moment, you might unfortunately have noticed gaps on shelf, or substitutions in your online order,” he said.

“Unlike the surge buying of early 2020 (who could forget the toilet paper), this is because of the number of people in our supply chain in isolation – from suppliers to truck drivers and distribution centre team members – which in turn is causing material delays to store deliveries.”

The CEO said that Woolworths is experiencing Covid-related absences of more than 20 per cent in distribution centres, and more than 10 per cent in stores.

Online shopping move labelled ‘double edged sword’ for those with allergies

Hundreds of Woolworths customers have taken to Woolworths’ latest Facebook post to express their opinion on the grocery giant’s latest online shopping initiative.

“I noticed you said you’d introduce substitutions on all products. There needs to be an option to turn this off for people with hypersensitive allergies and anaphylaxis,” wrote one Facebook user.

Sydney, Australia 2021-01-07: Exterior view of Woolworths Miranda supermarket during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. Face mask mandatory sign
Sydney, Australia 2021-01-07: Exterior view of Woolworths Miranda supermarket during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. Face mask mandatory sign

“We should still be able to say no to substitutions for online orders. We have very specific food needs within my household making substitutions largely unsuitable even if it’s a similar product I’d rather go without,” said another.

“I understand there are shortages as staff are unwell etc however removing the option to say no to substitutions isn’t okay. I need specific items including specific brands and if they are substituted they will be wasted,” commented a third.

Another Facebook user commented that risking unsuitable substitutions would mean having to physically shop in store, which was a concern.

“It's a double edged sword, risk of a wrong substitute or risk of going in store and catching Covid,” they said.

‘Heroes’: Essential workers thanked amid shopping announcement

Not all Facebook users have criticised Woolworths’ latest online shopping announcement though, with many shoppers taking to the comments section to express their gratitude for supermarket workers.

“Thank you for the explanation, hope all your staff remain safe and I wish those who are ill a fast recovery. I appreciate what they are doing for us as I appreciate all front line workers,” said one user.

“Huge thanks to Woolworths for their ongoing hard work and commitment. I feel for all the staff as they are our heroes and have put themselves at a much higher risk. Thank you just doesn't seem enough,” commented another.

Keep up the great work and everyone in your team. Top job to those in the distribution centers working round the clock to keep the supplies up,” wrote a third.

Do you have a story tip? Email:

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter and download the Yahoo News app from the App Store or Google Play.