Woolies reveals when loo paper will return
It has been six weeks since the coronavirus crisis sparked panic buying in Aussie supermarkets, resulting in shelves being stripped bare of essentials.
Since then, everyday items such as toilet paper, pasta, rice and sanitary wipes have all but disappeared.
In a new email to customers, Woolworths' CEO Brad Banducci revealed the supermarket giant had sold 20.5 million rolls of toilet paper in one week but he said things were "slowly" getting back to normal.
The supermarket boss said he wanted to update shoppers on the current situation and to respond to some of the most common questions he's hearing from the public and his own family.
Unsurprisingly, one of the top questions was when toilet paper, pasta, wipes and other products would be fully stocked again.
"Amazing as it might seem, we are still seeing almost double our normal demand for toilet paper. Just this week, that was over 20.5 million rolls," Mr Banducci said.
"So despite much more stock coming in, we're still not where we need to be. It is slowly improving, but please help everyone by only buying what you need."
He said an extra 1000 pallets of pasta was arriving at Woolies stores each week, equating to more than half a million extra packs.
"It will still be patchy for a while, but we are expecting much more stock on shelves next week," he said.
"We're doing our best to keep up with the extraordinary demand for cleaning wipes, including securing extra supply from alternative sources in the short term, much of which will start to arrive in stores in the coming weeks."
Mr Banducci also revealed that two of the supermarket giant's highest growth categories this week had been cake mixes and household cleaning products.
"A lot more kids are baking and parents cleaning as we all spend more time at home," he explained.
Meanwhile, a range of measures have been put in place to make Woolies stores safer for customers, many of which were suggested by shoppers themselves.
They include a store greeter wiping down basket and trolley handles as customers enter stores, asking customers to keep 1.5m between each other in store, the installation of new Plexiglass screens across staffed check-outs and asking shoppers to packing their own bags at the checkout.
Woolworths' checkout teams now rotate every two hours to limit face-to-face interaction and there has been a significant increase in the cleaning of 'high touch' surfaces and daily deep cleaning.
Mr Banducci said from next week there would be a greater focus on managing the number of customers in stores.
"The current guidance from the Department of Health is that it's not necessary for our teams to wear masks and gloves in store," he said.
"However, we know that many of our team feel more comfortable wearing gloves, so we are providing them as an option if they choose."
Mr Banducci also said the company was "making good progress" reactivating home delivery area by area and hoped to have all areas operational immediately after Easter.
"The number of Priority Delivery Hubs will go from 50 to over 200 by the end of this weekend. Some of these stores have reduced opening hours to allow us to provide thousands of extra delivery windows a week," he said.
From Monday, Priority Assistance Partner Pick Up will start to be available, which will allow customers to place an order online for someone to pick up on their behalf.
That will be in more than 100 stores for drive-through and 600 stores at the service desk.
He said Woolworths had already delivered thousands of Woolworths Basics Box to help the growing number of people in self isolation in NSW, ACT, VIC, SA and TAS with more states rolling out shortly.
Woolworths' customer care team has also now doubled in size and is answering 60 per cent more calls compared to last week.
The average phone wait time for Priority Assistance home delivery is still 27 minutes - which Mr Banducci said was "too long", but he said that figure was "coming down rapidly".
Meanwhile, Coles CEO Steven Cain has also shared the latest changes hitting Coles stores across the country.
"We want to ensure that all customers can follow social distancing guidelines when shopping in our stores," Mr Cain said in a statement.
"Over the coming week, we may be introducing new limits when the stores are busy on how many customers can be in a Coles store at any one time. Team members will be at store entrances to provide assistance and let you know when it is OK to come in.
"We ask that you follow their instructions and any signs in-store so we can safely serve as many customers in the community as possible."
Coles has also extended its regular trading hours to 7am to 10pm, and in some stores, 7am to midnight.
He said the company was "continuing to increase cleaning and sanitisation in our stores to ensure the safety of both our customers and team members."
"Check-outs and self-service areas will now have additional cleaning every hour, plus we'll be providing more wipes for baskets and trolleys," Mr Cain said.
"To help minimise close contact time, we'll be asking you to follow the directional signs around the store, pack your own bags at the checkout, scan your own flybuys card and use tap and go payment."
Originally published as Woolies reveals when loo paper will return