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Supermarkets break with tradition by opening early on Anzac Day

Australia’s biggest supermarkets will break with tradition this year by opening stores early on Anzac Day in certain states, following approval by respective State and Territory Governments.

Woolworths and Coles will open their NSW and ACT stores from 9am on Saturday April 25, with Woolworths shutting at 6pm and Coles closing at 8pm, while Aldi will open from 8.30am – 8.00pm.

Woolworths’ NT stores will also open from 8am-8pm.

The retailers’ stores in other states will keep with tradition, shutting doors for the entire day or until between 12pm-1pm as a mark of respect.

Supermarkets have been granted special exemption to extend trading hours in some states as part of the COVID-19 emergency response.

Representatives for Coles and Woolworths said the decision is based on supporting social distancing guidelines by giving customers a larger window of time in which to shop.

“We are grateful to state governments that have provided exemptions for trading on public holidays, which will assist in maintaining social distancing as customers have more options on when they do their shopping this weekend,” a spokesperson for Coles told Inside FMCG.

A Woolworths spokesperson said the decision to open earlier was made after consultation with long term partner the RSL.

“The revised trading hours will help us support the health and safety of our team and customers, and the management of social distancing measures currently implemented within stores,” the spokesperson said.

The decision has been met with some disapproval and cynicism by SDA, the union for retail, fast food and warehouse workers, which accused the retailers of putting profits first.

“We as a society stop and pause on the morning of April 25 as a sign of respect to our Anzacs post and present. We always have and this year should be no different, even though the current environment means we’ll have to mark the occasion differently,” SDA NSW/ACT secretary Bernie Smith said.

“Our supermarkets have been making record sales beyond anything usually seen at this time of year. You’d think they could put the bottom line aside for a few hours to show respect for our Anzacs and also allow their workers to show respect too.”

The SDA claims the supermarkets’ initial Anzac Day advertising gave the impressions that stores would be closed until 12pm and is calling on the supermarkets to rethink the decision to open early.

“Legally, they can do it, but Coles and Woolworths clearly knows that not allowing the community to pause on Anzac Day is not going to [be] well received,” Smith said.

Since Tuesday April 14, discount retailer Aldi returned to its usual trading hours of 8.30am-7pm or 8.30am-8pm, following COVID-19 disruption.

“We will continue to re-evaluate these hours on a weekly basis and communicate the decision to either make changes to these hours or uphold normal trading hours,” the retailer states on its website.

Aldi said its stores in QLD and WA will remain closed all day Saturday April 25.

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