Supermarket giant Coles is in the early stages of rolling out an Online Priority Service (COPS) to service elderly and vulnerable customers who are struggling to access groceries as a result of COVID-19 panic buying.
After unprecedented online orders, Coles halted Click&Collect and Home Delivery through Coles Online from March 18 and the service has been temporarily diverted to COPS to prioritise those most in need.
The service is expected to be rolled out by the end of this week.
“We’re looking to deliver food and grocery essentials to elderly and vulnerable members of the community, including retirement and nursing homes as soon as possible, hopefully by the end of the week,” Coles said in a statement on its website on Tuesday.
“Our priority is ensuring we can offer a good range of everyday grocery essentials with high availability to our customers who find it difficult to shop in-store.”
Remote Delivery will still be available to customers through Coles Online in conjunction with a 3rd party delivery provider.
The supermarket said it is still not accepting Click&Collect and UberEats delivery service orders “to enable team members to improve availability in stores” and apologised to its regular online customers for any inconvenience caused.
Coles Online on EBay has also been temporarily suspended.
Dedicated shopping hours for healthcare workers
The supermarket has also announced two Community Hour shopping periods every week to emergency services and healthcare workers.
Starting on March 26, these workers will have exclusive access to the supermarket for the first hour of trade every Tuesday and Thursday.
The service is aimed at doctors, nurses, paramedics, hospital and ambulance staff as well as police, firefighters and emergency service workers who hold an AHPRA card, a workplace ID or are wearing their uniform.
As previously announced, the Community Hour on Monday, Wednesday and Friday will continue to serve the vulnerable and elderly customers who hold a government-issued Pensioner Concession Card, Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, Companion Card, Seniors Card, Disability Card or Health Care Card.
“In the past week we have seen Community Hour help vulnerable and elderly Australians access essential grocery items during this challenging time. We are now extending this opportunity to those Australians who are protecting our community and keeping us safe,” Coles Group CEO Steven Cain said.
“We know these workers are incredibly busy and hope that providing them with a dedicated hour at the beginning of the day to shop will make their lives a little easier and support the vital work they are doing every day.”
Rival supermarket Woolworths also introduced an early morning shopping hour for seniors and people with disability and is supplying packs of toilet to the elderly via volunteer service Meals on Wheels.
Supermarkets close early for cleaning
Similarly to Aldi, Coles has reduced its opening hours to allow staff enough time and space to extensively clean stores and replenish the shelves for the customers the next day. Supermarkets will now close at 8pm for this reason.
The supermarket is spending an extra A$1 million per week to extensively clean its stores and has added more security guards to protect staff and shoppers.
Last week the retailer teamed up with Aldi, IGA and Woolworths on a joint advertisement campaign in national newspapers calling on customers to treat their staff with respect.
The grocery has released guidelines on social distancing in stores, advising shoppers to allow the length of a trolley between themselves and other shoppers. Customers are also urged to sanitise their hands before entering stores and use tap-and-go for payments where possible.
Reporting by Remedios Lucio and Ruth Hogan.
Inside FMCG is not affiliated with Coles or Woolworths.
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