Easter shopping hasn’t looked like this before. As coronavirus restrictions get tighter, supermarkets are adding more rules to your grocery shop.
And retailers are preparing for what’s traditionally the second busiest shopping time outside Christmas. Rather than the usual crammed aisles, stores are starting to limit shoppers and asking people to queue outside the store.
Here’s what we know about the rules so far.
Who’s asking shoppers to queue?
An all-in announcement from the major food retailers (including Coles, Woolworths and Aldi) yesterday flagged they could start to limit the number of people in stores.
And it’s not just supermarkets. Other stores were already rolling out queuing systems over the weekend — this Bunnings store in Brisbane’s south-west suburb of Oxley had a line-up by Sunday lunchtime.
But there are no hard and fast rules on whether your local store will be asking you to queue.
How will queuing work?
At Woolworths, limiting the number of people will depend on how busy the store is. And some stores might not even need to use it at all.
The company’s supermarket managing director Claire Peters said it’ll be specific to each store and based on its size.
She said store managers will use “common sense discretion” to manage this.
“Customers will start to notice stores implementing new social distancing measures in the lead-up to the Easter weekend,” Ms Peters said.
Security, police to help manage queues
If you have to queue, Woolworths will mark out the area with cones and operate a one-in, one-out system.
And to keep people a healthy social distance of 1.5 metres apart, the stores will work with centre managers, security and police to manage queues.
At Aldi stores, the number of people allowed inside at one time varies from 70 to 100 customers.
Again, that depends on how big the shop is.
Security officers or staff will tell shoppers if the store has hit capacity and they need to queue (1.5 metres apart, of course) outside.
The budget supermarket chain started rolling out its queues last week if stores were busy.
At Coles, the company’s chief operating officer Matt Swindells told Triple M on Monday they’ll also roll out queuing this week.
“We’ll be asking people to queue [outside the store]. We have people counting customers in and have people counting customers out,” he said.
Just how many people are allowed in Coles and Woolworths stores (which sometimes have more floorspace than an Aldi) will depend.
For example, this Coles store in Perth’s Victoria Park has a limit of 275 people at one time, according to a social media post by centre management.
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Can I skip the queues?
If you want to try, the biggest tip is to shop earlier in the week — and avoid Thursday.
Mr Swindells said this Thursday, the day before Good Friday, was one of the busiest shopping days of the year and people should shop earlier in the week to avoid crowds.
Woolworths’ Claire Peters says Thursday is a “spike” for them as well.
Going online might be an option for regular shoppers soon, but not until after Easter.
Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci said in an email to customers home delivery was being reactivated by area but not until after the holidays.
Your questions on coronavirus answered:
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But what if I’m a vulnerable shopper and can’t queue?
In some states like New South Wales, supermarkets will be allowed to trade all day on Good Friday (as well as Easter Sunday and Anzac Day) as a one-off during the COVID-19 pandemic.
So that means Coles’ community hour, which allows vulnerable people like the elderly and disabled to shop before everyone else, will run this Friday as usual in the state.
And there are more online delivery options available for those who need it.
Both Woolworths and Coles have different offerings for elderly and isolated people.
The latest change, being rolled out from today, will let registered priority assistance customers at Woolworths place an order online and get someone else to pick it up for them.
But again, that’ll depend on your store — the service will be rolled out to 100 stores for drive-through and another 600 at store service desks.