Coles ditches Community Hour as supermarkets ease back into normalcy

After an intense couple of months for Australian supermarkets, retailers are showing signs of a gradual return to normalcy.

On Friday, Coles will expand its trading hours and remove its community shopping hour for the elderly and vulnerable shoppers, which has been in place for the past seven weeks.

Almost 200 Coles stores will open at 6am to all shoppers, as state laws permit, after a disruptive period in which the trading hours of major retailers were constantly reassessed.

Coles said the changes are being made to make it easier for all shoppers to access stores, now that demand for groceries and product availability begins to return to “more normal levels”.

Coles introduced Community Hour, from 7am to 8am on weekdays, in mid-March, and later expanded the service to emergency services and healthcare workers.

“The reason we started Coles Community Hour was because excess demand led to limited availability, which meant we had lots of people eager to get into stores early in the morning,” Coles chief operations officer Matt Swindells said in a statement on Tuesday.

“With supply almost back to normal for essential groceries, Coles is reopening this hour to all customers again as well as opening earlier where we can, to make shopping more convenient for everyone in the community.”

Late last month, Coles reopened online orders to the public following a temporary suspension in which they sought to prioritise vulnerable shoppers, and the retailer said it has doubled capacity.

“We’ve doubled our capacity in Coles Online so there is now more opportunity than ever for customers to either have their groceries delivered to their homes or collect them at their convenience,” Swindells said.

As the government begins to look at easing restrictions, Coles is urging customers to continue following appropriate safety practices.

The retailer has created a set of guidelines, encouraging customers to be a “Coles Speedy Shopper” by planning ahead, shopping alone, and packing their own bags.

In its busiest stores, Coles is monitoring customer numbers to help maintain social distancing and in some cases will require customers to queue outside before entering.

Both Coles and Woolworths began easing product limits on items such as toilet paper, rice and pasta, last week after reporting bumper sales growth in the third quarter as a result of panic buying.

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