We know these are uncertain and anxious times for all Victorians. On the back of the new restrictions within the state, I was keen to write to you with an update from Woolworths so you can hear first hand what we are doing to help Victorian communities during the lockdown.
Store opening and shopping hours
In line with the updated restrictions, all Woolworths Supermarkets and Metro Food Stores in metropolitan Melbourne will close to customers entering at 7.30pm each day, with customers expected to have finished their shop by 7.45pm. Trading hours for Woolworths stores outside Melbourne aren’t affected. The same applies to BWS and Dan Murphy’s stores in Victoria.
All BIG W stores in metropolitan Melbourne will, unfortunately, need to close to customers at the end of trade this Wednesday. We will continue to offer contactless Pick up from those stores as well as Contactless Home Delivery, and we’re currently working through how this will operate. There are 9 BIG W stores in regional Victoria under Stage 3 restrictions which will remain open for customers from 9am-6pm. We’re doing everything we can to minimise the impact on our BIG W team members, including temporary opportunities to support other businesses in the Woolworths Group where possible.
Product Limits and Stock
In Woolworths, some buying limits are in place across Victoria to once again help make sure everyone has fair access to fresh food and essential products. The details are subject to change, so it’s best to check the latest on our website here.
There are also new Victorian Government restrictions proposed on the meat industry and our supply chain (including our logistics partners) effective Friday night this week. We are engaging with the Government as I write to seek further clarification on these changes and are in parallel, working with our suppliers and doing all we can to minimise any disruption to the supply of meat and other products in our stores and online. We will keep you updated as best we can and in the meantime, we’d ask you again to shop as you normally would and only buy what you need.
Planning your shop
It’s more important than ever that we all do our best to maintain social distancing in store. To help you better plan when to shop, we’d like to remind you of Q-Tracker, which allows you to see how busy a store is almost in real-time (it’s updated every 5 minutes), and when the busiest times normally are. There are also more than 40 stores across Melbourne where you can ‘book your shop’, confirming your spot ahead of time so you won't have to wait to enter.
Tens of thousands of customers have already made use of Q-Tracker to plan their shop, while hundreds have made a booking at our initial trial stores. You can check it out here.
Health and Safety
Health and safety remains our #1 priority for all of our customers and teams. We are trialling a contact tracing App in a number of Melbourne stores this week, with plans to roll-out across our network next week. You may see posters with a QR code as you enter (similar to what’s in cafes and restaurants). Where you do see these, we’d encourage you to check in to help with COVID-19 tracing. We’ll only share this information with the health authorities for contact tracing, and to let you know if you may be impacted by a confirmed case in a store.
Health & Safety Ambassadors are also positioned at the entry of all Woolworths Supermarkets in all Victorian stores. These dedicated team members are assisting customers at the sanitiser station, cleaning baskets and trolleys and helping with social distancing.
As more of you choose to shop online for Delivery or Pick up, we have brought on more delivery trucks and on-demand delivery drivers to meet the increased demand. We’re taking further steps this week to help support the delivery of even more online orders to Victorians.
We’re temporarily turning 3 of our Supermarkets into online delivery hubs so they can be used to serve the extra online orders we’re expecting. That means, from this evening Woolworths Dandenong Plaza, Watergardens South and Mountain Gate are closing to the public.
We understand this will be inconvenient if you’re a regular customer in one of these stores, and our apologies for this. We’ve tried to minimise disruption by choosing stores with other supermarkets nearby so you can still shop in a way that meets the Government's restricted movement policy.
A reminder that we have a number of ways we can help you shop online with confidence:
Supporting the more vulnerable
As we enter this new stage of restrictions, finding ways to support the most vulnerable in our community is at the forefront of our thinking. That’s why we’ve created a Woolworths Kindness Card - it has $50 Woolworths credit loaded and we’ll be giving these to defence forces and charity organisations to hand out to communities in need so that they can access everyday essentials. The credit can be redeemed online for specific products which mean vulnerable community members can order pantry staples and fresh produce without having to leave their home.
These are challenging times in Victoria, and as a father with two daughters currently studying and working in Melbourne, I feel it personally. In addition, one of my daughters (working in health care), has also just tested positive for COVID making it even more real for us as a family. Rest assured of Woolworths’ commitment to do whatever we can to support all of the Victorian communities we are part of.
CEO Woolworths Group
With the increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases in NSW, customers, teams and visitors across all Woolworths Group stores and sites in NSW and ACT will be strongly encouraged to wear face coverings from Monday 3 August.
In Queensland, customers and teams across Woolworths Group stores and sites within hot spot areas will also be strongly encouraged to wear face coverings from tomorrow.
The guidance is for Woolworths Supermarkets, Woolworths Metro Food Stores, BIG W, Dan Murphy’s, BWS and ALH Hotels.
This is in addition to the mandatory requirements for face coverings in all of Victoria, currently in place across Melbourne and Mitchell shires, with the entire state now included from Sunday.
Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci said: “The safety and wellbeing of our customers, teams and communities is our top priority.
“Even though wearing a face covering is not mandatory in NSW, ACT or Queensland, as the largest private sector employer with stores in almost every community, we feel it's important we lead the way in helping reduce community transmission of COVID-19. We’re asking our teams to lead by example, and this includes our Group Executive Team.
“Masks and face coverings are a highly visible symbol of the persistence of COVID-19. By encouraging and role modelling their use, it will further support the steps we need to collectively take to stop the spread of the virus and keep our team and customers safe.”
Face coverings are being provided to all Woolworths Group team members to wear and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.
Brad Banducci added: “We’ll continue to work with the Health Department to make sure our safety protocols and procedures are the best they can be.
“We’d like to thank our customers and team for their ongoing support as we all work together to keep our communities COVIDSafe.”
The recent increase in positive cases in Victoria, and to a lesser extent NSW, is an unfortunate reminder that we continue to live with COVID. We have learned a lot from our experience in Victoria over the past few weeks and with the situation very fluid in NSW, I thought it was timely to provide you with a status update on three key issues:
Face masks are increasingly becoming part of everyday life
If toilet paper was the symbol of the first phase of COVID, then masks are symbolic of this phase. In Greater Melbourne, face coverings have now become mandatory when people leave their homes (unless they have an official exception). With face masks fast becoming part of everyday life in Victoria (and indeed in many parts of Europe and the United States), it feels prudent to prepare for the same in NSW.
With that in mind, we have updated our advice in all our stores in the Local Government Areas of Fairfield and Liverpool with a close eye on other areas as the situation evolves. This is true for all Woolworths (including Metro), BWS, Dan Murphy’s and BIG W stores.
In these areas, we strongly encourage customers to wear a face covering when coming into any of our stores.
This is the same guidance we have given to our teams working in store in these areas, and we have provided them with masks to wear. We fully support all customers and team members who choose to wear a face covering.
I should also add that, as always, it’s interesting to see Australian ingenuity in action. We’ve seen a huge increase in the number of people searching online for how to make their own face masks, with searches for elastic up 250% on the Woolworths website and searches for sewing machines more than doubling on the BIG W website.
Notifying customers of positive tests in local stores
In July, a small number of our stores in NSW have been impacted by positive COVID tests.
When we do learn of a confirmed case, we think it’s important to be fully transparent to the local community, including posting notices on our website and in the affected stores and sending messages to Rewards members who shop in those stores.
If a team member has tested positive, these notices include details such as the last shift worked by the team member and the number for the Department of Health's Coronavirus Hotline should anyone need to seek health advice.
We are also working as quickly as possible to leverage our digital assets to increase both the reach and speed of these notifications and this includes our digital in-store screens, apps and the use of SMS.
Continuously improving our social distancing and hygiene standards
We’ll also continue to work with the Health Department to make sure our safety protocols and procedures are the best they can be. The single most important aspect of which is social distancing and with that in mind, we have introduced a new tool which lets you see how busy a store is almost in real-time, and when the busiest times normally are. It’s called Q-Tracker and you can check it out here.
The safety and wellbeing of our customers, teams and communities remains our top priority. Thank you for your ongoing support as we all work together to keep our communities safe and limit the spread of COVID-19 in New South Wales.
CEO, Woolworths Group
For the latest updates and details of our online shopping options (including Delivery, Pick up, Priority Assistance and Community Pick up), see our website here.
A message to our Victorian community
With the ongoing community transmissions of COVID-19 and the introduction of mandatory face coverings, we understand how unsettling and stressful this time is for many Victorians.
The key challenges we have been working through in the last week are:
Face coverings in store
If toilet paper was the symbol of the first phase of COVID then masks seem to be symbolic of this phase. We have certainly all learned a lot about face masks in the last few weeks and we have updated our policies on face coverings following the Victorian Government’s announcement earlier this week.
In line with the Victorian Government directive, we expect customers to wear a face covering when they come into any of our stores in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire.
This is true for all stores in the Group – Woolworths (including Metro), Dan Murphy’s, BWS and BIG W.
To help provide access to masks for as many customers as possible, we are sending tens of thousands of boxes of masks to Victorian Woolworths stores for customers to buy. We will prioritise hotspot areas, with stock arriving in time for the weekend and a limit of one box per customer.
In addition, up until Sunday evening, if you arrive at one of our stores (including BIG W, Dan Murphy’s and BWS) without a face covering, we will provide you with one face mask free-of-charge.
The Victorian Government has said face coverings don’t need to be medical grade and you can make your own mask, or use other face coverings like a scarf or bandana. There are instructions on how to make a mask on the Health Department’s website.
There are some official exceptions to the Victorian Government’s directive on face coverings, which you can see here. If you’re unable to wear a face covering for any of these reasons, we’d strongly encourage you to find alternatives to coming into store, such as ordering online for Delivery or Pick up (including Community Pick up which allows others to pick up on your behalf).
Face masks have been readily available to Woolworths team members nationally since April, but wearing them has been optional. Our team members in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire are now also directed to wear face coverings unless they have a valid exception in line with the Government's directive. From next week, you’ll start to see those team members with a valid exception wearing a sticker to identify them as such.
Suspended operations at two of our Melbourne distribution centres
For the safety of our teams, we had no choice but to suspend operations at our two Mulgrave distribution centres in Melbourne last weekend after a number of team members tested positive to COVID-19. We picked up these cases as a result of our proactive testing program, testing more than 1,700 team members across our Victorian distribution and fulfilment centres in July.
We did test the surfaces in these centres for COVID-19 and while it’s encouraging that the tests came back negative, we made the decision to temporarily close these sites as a precautionary measure to protect the wellbeing of our team.
This has regrettably led to a poor supply of fresh fruit and vegetables in some Victorian stores and our sincere apologies for this. Our teams are working hard to ramp up deliveries from alternative distribution centres and we’re doing all we can to restore the supply of fruit and vegetables to normal.
Home delivery availability
For home delivery customers, I’m pleased to share that our West Footscray online fulfillment centre will start picking orders again today after it was cleared to re-open by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services. We also managed to move the fulfilment of many additional orders to local stores in recent weeks, so delivery windows will now be widely available across Melbourne.
Notifying customers of positive tests in local stores
We have also had a number of stores impacted over the last week, with cases of team members returning positive tests at Woolworths Supermarkets in Airport West, South Yarra, St Albans, Keysborough, Tarneit Gardens and Victoria Harbour, Woolworths Metro in Abbotsford, Big W in Doncaster and Dan Murphy’s in Sunshine.
We’ll continue to be transparent, including posting notices online and in-store when we learn of confirmed cases. These include details of the last shift worked by the team member and the number for the Department of Health's Coronavirus hotline should anyone need to seek health advice. We’ll also continue to work with the Health Department to make sure our safety protocols and procedures are the best they can be.
It is very hard writing this note from Sydney to imagine the stress and anxiety of the Victorian community. Suffice to say that we remain absolutely committed to doing whatever it takes to help keep our team and customers safe in Victoria and right across Australia.
CEO, Woolworths Group
A message from our CEO to all Victorians
With the recent rapid escalation of COVID-related cases in Greater Melbourne, I thought it was appropriate to write to you directly with an update from Woolworths.
With the Stage 3 restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, and after we saw increased demand on Tuesday afternoon, we decided to reintroduce buying limits to a number of products across Victoria. (For the latest details, visit our website here.)
Unlike in March and April, we currently have good stock levels across our Victorian stores with more product on its way. So the decision on limits was taken out of a combination of caution and to make sure everyone has equal access to the products they need. As before, we’d ask you again to keep shopping as you normally would and only buy what you need.
We also understand it might be frustrating for customers in regional Victoria to have the same product restrictions as Greater Melbourne. But we’d like to avoid encouraging customers travelling long distances to regional stores to load up on groceries, which would not only be unfair to regional customers, but also pose a public health concern.
Looking after you in store
At this stage, we haven’t seen the need to bring back Community Hour (with both Community Pick up and Priority Assist in place to support vulnerable customers), but we will continue to monitor the situation.
To help you better plan when to shop, this week we introduced a new tool which lets you see how busy a store is in real-time, and when the busiest times normally are. It’s called Q-Tracker and you can check it out here.
As well as these customer-facing measures, we have introduced new measures for our teams. These include compulsory daily temperature checks for all team members and the introduction of nurses in many of our stores and distribution centres in hotspot areas, to support our teams with both the temperature checks and health advice.
We have also been very clear with our whole Victorian team that if they feel unwell, they should not come to work – and we have put provisions in place to accommodate this.
It’s also important that you shouldn’t come into a store if you feel unwell either, or if you should be in mandatory self-isolation or have been in contact with a confirmed or suspected COVID case.
Shopping with confidence online
Delivery and Pick up are both open as usual with good availability of order windows across Victoria. A reminder that we have a number of ways we can help you shop online with confidence:
You may have heard that unfortunately we had 3 confirmed cases of COVID at our West Footscray Online Distribution Centre this week. With the wellbeing of our team the priority, we had no choice but to cancel some online orders on Monday and Tuesday while we worked through the isolation and testing of all team members on this site. At the time of writing this on Wednesday evening, the site remains closed but we have increased the online capacity of our Supermarkets in the area. (It’s worth noting that almost 80% of our online orders in Victoria are normally filled from within our stores.)
Helping communities in the ‘Melbourne Towers’
This week, we’ve been working hand-in-hand with the Victorian Government and our longstanding food rescue partners Foodbank and FareShare to provide much-needed fresh meals and supplies to the Melbourne public housing residents in lockdown.
So far, we’ve provided 4,500 bags containing essentials like pasta, fresh fruit & vegetables, oats, cheese, yoghurt and biscuits. We’ve also provided FareShare kitchens with enough protein and vegetables to prepare over 14,000 meals for the local residents. We’re committed to continue supporting these Victorians throughout the restrictions.
We have learned a lot from the previous Stage 3 restrictions, which means we are now better prepared and have so far done a better job of making sure our stores are in-stock and we have enough online capacity.
However, this week’s events are a timely and unfortunate reminder that COVID is still very much part of our lives. So as well as providing you with the service you need from us, it has reinforced that we need to work hard on how we respond to positive cases of COVID so we can do everything we can to protect the wellbeing of our customers, team and communities.
CEO, Woolworths Group
A Victorian COVID-19 Update from our CEO
With this week’s outbreak of COVID-19 in Greater Melbourne, it’s been a challenging and anxious week for many Victorians and a timely and sobering reminder that the pandemic is still very much part of our lives.
Earlier this week we also began to see signs of increased demand for some products in some of our Melbourne stores. So as a precautionary measure, we have brought back some product limits in Victoria to help prevent a surge in buying and, just as importantly, help us maintain social distancing in stores.
While this increased demand has only been in a limited number of our Melbourne stores, we made the decision to apply these limits across the whole of Victoria. This might seem like an extreme measure, but we have decided on taking a conservative approach to do whatever we can to support all Victorian communities.
Product Limits in Victoria
That means there is now a 2 pack per person, per shop limit in place for the following categories when you’re shopping in store or online:
It’s also worth noting that we have excellent stock levels in our distribution centres to meet demand, with more than enough to go around. We’re closely monitoring demand across Victoria (and indeed the country) and we’re hopeful this is a temporary measure and we’ll be able to lift these restrictions quickly.
Social Distancing and Hygiene in Store
As always, the safety and wellbeing of our customers and teams is our #1 priority – just as it was during the peak of COVID-19.
All our stores are open as usual and we have social distancing and hygiene measures in place throughout Victoria, with greeters regularly wiping down trolleys and baskets, team members monitoring social distancing around checkouts and hand sanitiser stations at the front of every store.
Shopping with confidence online
Online shopping is currently fully operational with good availability for orders of both Delivery and Pick up. With higher demand this week (and to help reduce how much travel customers at home need to do) we have boosted online orders by expanding our Victorian fleet of more than 200 vehicles and through our existing on-demand delivery partners Sherpa and Drive Yello (which are similar to the food delivery services you might be familiar with).
Community Pick up (which we introduced at the height of COVID) is available in most Victorian stores, allowing you to pick up groceries both for yourself and on behalf of someone else – you can check your local store here.
Priority Assistance deliveries also remain available to help the elderly, people with disability and those in isolation. To apply, please complete the form at www.woolworths.com.au/priorityassistance.
I wanted to remind everyone that all our deliveries (including Priority Assistance) remain contactless, with your groceries delivered to your doorstep in reusable bags. You can order your Delivery or Pick up using the Woolworths App (download it here if you don’t have it) or on our website here.
BIG W, BWS and Dan Murphy’s
All BIG W, BWS and Dan Murphy’s stores are open as usual, with the same high standards of social distancing and hygiene measures in place across the network, whether you’re shopping in store or online.
We have re-introduced some product limits in BIG W, with a 2 pack per person, per shop limit on Toilet Paper and Paper Towels (with limits on Hand Sanitiser being lifted this Friday morning).
Thank you for your renewed patience as together we work through what we all hope will be a short-lived setback. We are working closely with the Victorian Government, relevant authorities and the wider industry as the situation evolves and will keep you updated. As always, we remain committed to supporting every community in Victoria and across Australia.
CEO, Woolworths Group
The Start of Winter and World Environment Day
With winter upon us and today being World Environment Day, I thought it was a good time to talk about some of the key things we’ve been working on.
Committed to a greener tomorrow
Something that really surprised me during COVID was the continued relevance of the environment – with 70% of Australians saying that taking care of the planet and making sustainable choices remained important to them, even at the height of the crisis.
It’s now two years since we phased out single-use plastic bags. While this was a big step, with more than 6 billion bags removed from circulation since then, we’ve always been clear that it was just the first on our journey towards a greener tomorrow.
So with that in mind, I’m proud to be able to report on some of the progress we’ve made:
Supporting Australian made
As we start to recover from COVID-19, we understand how important it is to support Australian businesses and in turn our communities.
That’s why, to support Australian dairy farmers, this week we announced that we will extend our existing dairy contribution payments for Woolworths branded two and three litre fresh own brand milk varieties until June 2021. This extension is expected to contribute more than $30 million to dairy farmers, on top of the almost $50 million we, together with you, our customers, have already contributed. Thank you for your continued support for this key initiative.
This is in addition to our commitment to an Australian-first sourcing policy for fruit, vegetables and meat and supporting local products where possible.
We have also heard your feedback on how to make identifying Australian products easier when you’re shopping – it's a challenge we’re up for and one we are working on.
Winter inspiration and entertaining
In previous emails, I talked about how our cooking behaviour changed during COVID-19 and how we were becoming more adventurous in the kitchen. This trend has continued with strong growth in all forms of vegetables, with eggplant up a massive 38% on last year, herbs are also up 28%, ginger up 18%, garlic up 26% and chillies up 36%.
What strikes me at the moment, though, is how we are slowly getting back into home entertaining as restrictions ease. Premium entertaining products like specialty cheeses, olives and premium crackers have grown by 23% on last year and baking and desserts are up 34%. Perhaps it’s because we’re now able to invite people over again and show off our new baking skills?
Equally, as we continue to eat more at home, we’ve just launched a new range of options to make life easier in time for winter – delicious stir-fries, tray bakes and vegetable packs with a lot of the hard work already done for you. Look for our COOK and &Veg ranges next time you’re shopping.
And we’re not only getting comfort from food. We’ve sold almost 200,000 pairs of slippers, 100,000 sets of pyjamas, 20,000 electric blankets and 40,000 heaters at Woolworths over the past 5 weeks.
I wanted to share some updates as restrictions further ease across the community:
Recognising those who have gone above and beyond
Finally, thank you for all your positive feedback on our team. It has been very inspiring to read your various comments and we have been reflecting on how we can recognise their extraordinary efforts.
We’ve decided the best way would be to invite them to become shareholders in Woolworths, so this week we announced that more than 100,000 of our permanent (full-time and part-time) team members would be rewarded with shares in Woolworths Group before the end of June.
I hope you agree that this is appropriate recognition and we are excited to welcome them to our shareholder register.
It’s another reminder that it’s only by being ‘better together’ than we can live our purpose of ‘creating better experiences together for a better tomorrow’.
CEO, Woolworths Group
Over the last 9 weeks, it has been both interesting and gratifying to see how we, as a community of grocery shoppers, have adapted to this time of dramatic change. It shows just how resilient and resourceful we are.
These are some of this week’s highlights for me:
We are becoming healthier and more adventurous in our cooking
While the slow cooking movement continues, we’re also becoming increasingly adventurous. Ingredients such as cardamom, saffron and dried sesame seeds have doubled in sales. Roasted peppers are up 65%, Asian and hot chilli sauces are both up 40% and capers are up 35%.
We’re also well into soup season. What's interesting this year is the explosive growth of dried soup mix packets (up 200%) as people make more warming soup at home.
It’s also interesting to see customers think about their health, with a big rise in vitamin sales, plus ground ginger and turmeric sales up 120% and sauerkraut up 76%. On a related topic, sales of cough and cold products are much lower this year compared to last year.
We are well and truly in the safe shopping groove
Over the last few months, we’ve made some material changes and investments for the health and safety of our customers and teams. At the moment, we don’t foresee the need for any significant new social distancing or hygiene initiatives, but we do continue to fine-tune and adapt what we already have.
To help with customer flow and social distancing in some of our smaller stores, we’re introducing one-way aisles, which you’ll start to see in many Metro branded stores from this week.
We had some teething issues with some of the hand sanitiser units in stores this week (with too much dispensing), which we’re fixing as quickly as we can.
We continue to make masks available to those team members who want them and our voluntary temperature checks for team members are a big hit.
As shopping patterns become more predictable, we’ll be going back to our regular trading hours across most of our Woolworths stores from Monday. We’ve also now brought back extended hours for late-night Thursday shopping at BIG W. You can check your local Woolworths store’s updated hours here and BIG W here.
That means we’ll phase out the Community Hour we introduced at Woolworths during the demand surge, but after receiving a lot of constructive feedback, it’s something we wouldn’t hesitate to bring back if required. In parallel, later today we will start offering a permanent 10% discount on Delivery Unlimited for over-60s. See details here.
We have become “digital natives”
In a previous email, I talked about how much the Woolworths App can help you plan your shopping trip – and it now also includes the full digital catalogue. If you haven’t downloaded it yet, you can here.
In addition to the Woolworths App, the first version of our new Woolworths Rewards App is coming soon. It’s packed with features to help you get the most out of your Rewards and easily track your points – so keep an eye out for it when it launches.
Finally, the Department of Health’s COVIDSafe App. I have personally downloaded it and have encouraged our 190,000 Australian team members to do likewise. The app offers a simple and practical way for each of us to help prevent further outbreaks. You can read more about it here.
We are still planning on celebrating Mother’s Day
Mother’s Day may well be a little different this year. Whether you’re together or apart, you can still show Mum how much you love and appreciate her with a bunch of flowers, some chocolates – or take inspiration from our wonderful Mother’s Day ad (see it here) and cook together with your Mum on screen. There is also lots of Mother’s Day recipe inspiration on our website, here.
Finally, we are increasingly back in supply of everyday essentials
I am very pleased to report that sales of most products are back to pre-COVID-19 levels. This easing of demand means we’ve been able to lift the product limits on essentials like rice, pasta sauce, noodles, cleaning products, sugar and eggs. Just 6 categories still have limits in place (down from 45 at the height of the surge) and we’re hoping we can lift more next week.
On the critical issue of toilet paper, sales dropped by 4 million rolls last week, now below the sales of the corresponding week last year! This week we are on track to sell between 9m and 9.5m rolls, well down on our peak of 39.7 million rolls a week in mid-March or 11m rolls this time last year.
Living in the new normal
Thank you for letting me be part of your lives over the last few months by opening, reading and in many cases responding to my updates. It’s been a privilege. But as we are now living in the new normal, it feels like the right time for me to sign off on the regular emails and provide updates a little less frequently.
I think this email that I received from a customer this week says it all:
“Hi Brad, Thanks for the updates over the past few weeks.
I have noticed toilet paper stocked up at my local Woolworths branch, very pleased to see this. I have also seen hand sanitizer that wasn’t behind the counter.
Since things are largely back to normal I don’t think it is necessary for the weekly updates anymore, but if anything changes then you know how to get in touch with me.”
I continue to be humbled by the tireless work of our teams, the positive collaboration of our partners and the wonderful Australian spirit in each of our communities.
It’s a reminder that we are all in this together, and it’s only by continuing to be better together that we can succeed in the new normal.
As I write this on the eve of the ANZAC Day weekend, it is inspiring to see how we are all adapting to the new normal.
Making shopping safer for everyone
We continue to take positive steps in making shopping safer for our customers and teams.
This week, we completed the roll-out of the new customer hand sanitiser stations in the entrance of our Supermarkets. Clear protective screens are now at all staffed checkouts and at self-service ‘assisted’ checkouts in 300 stores.
We’re supporting our teams with optional masks and temperature checks. The Department of Health guidance remains that masks aren’t necessary, but we’ve made them available as an option to our teams as we know many of them feel more comfortable wearing them. Optional temperature checks for team members are also proving surprisingly popular.
Both Pick up and Delivery orders are now contactless, packed in reusable bags for collection or doorstep delivery.
I was asked on talk-back radio this week about verbal and physical abuse in our stores. While that did, unfortunately, increase during the surge in demand, I’m pleased to say this is now dramatically down.
It’s wonderful to see respect and kindness being shown to our team members and fellow Australians and a genuine thank you to all for your support in keeping us and each other safe.
Buying what we need
The demand surge of a few weeks ago is undoubtedly calming, with many people returning to buying what they need and signs also suggesting that the average Australian household has almost 2 weeks worth of typical pantry items at home.
We were able to lift buying limits on more products this week, including paracetamol and ibuprofen (both back to their normal limits of 5 per transaction), cough and cold remedies and body wash.
The exception to the rule is toilet paper! It’s up to 14.1 million rolls this week, more than last week’s 11.5 million, but not at the highs of 20 million we saw a few weeks ago. It’s likely driven by having much more supply available.
We have another 500,000 units of hand sanitiser coming in next week but with demand still up more than 1000% year-on-year, supply will still be patchy.
Making the most of our time at home
Looking at what customers are buying certainly suggests many people are making the most of their time at home.
If we were all bakers going into Easter, now, as winter looms, we are enjoying more warming comfort foods like soups and casseroles. Dried herbs and spices are up by more than 70% with dried soup mixes more than doubling. It’s a trend we’re also seeing at BIG W with kitchen appliances like slow cookers also seeing an uplift.
For inspiration on what to cook (whether warming comfort food or using up what’s in your pantry), have a look at our website here and download the Fresh Magazine App here.
Not surprisingly, home beauty products are also popular right now, with hair colourants up 50% and nail polish and removers up 40%.
Becoming digital natives and shopping more online
We’re becoming very comfortable searching and shopping online, with 62 million visits to our Website and App over the last 7 weeks, 2.6 million views of our recipe pages and an incredible 162 million page-turns of our digital catalogue, which you can see here. (I should also note that if you aren’t a digital native, the printed version of our catalogue is making a return to letterboxes across Australia this week).
If you haven’t shopped online before, we’ve also created an easy-to-follow guide to help get you started – check it out here.
Great news for Delivery and Pick up, which are back in business for all customers, now with thousands of extra delivery windows. On top of that, our partnerships with 'last mile' delivery services Sherpa and Drive Yello are helping to meet the rise in demand.
Community Pick up continues to be extremely popular, with 45,000 orders this week (up 15,000 on last week), allowing more people to pick up groceries for you and on behalf of someone else.
Throwing our support behind Australia, and supporting the RSL ANZAC Appeal
As in previous years, you’ll be able to make a donation to the RSL ANZAC Appeal by using the donation button on our checkout registers, buying an ANZAC Badge or Wristband from the Customer Service Desk or adding a $2 donation to your online order.
On ANZAC Day, stores will open in all states and territories other than Queensland and WA. In consultation with the RSL, we will open stores earlier than usual in NSW and the ACT, to help manage customer numbers in store this weekend, in turn helping with social distancing. For your local store’s opening hours, visit us here.
And finally, I’d like to share just one positive example of how we’ve been able to provide additional support for Australian suppliers as restaurant supply has slowed.
The Bread & Butter Project normally delivers artisan sourdough bread and pastries to cafes and restaurants across Sydney. They also reinvest 100% of profits into baker training and employment pathways for refugees and asylum seekers. So we’re pleased that we’ve been able to stock their bread in 14 of our Metro stores and we’re working hard to replicate these kinds of examples going forward.
As we get used to the new normal, it is inspiring to see the Australian spirit shine through. We are all in this together and it is only by being better together that we can succeed.
Thank you for helping us be better together.
We are all in this together - embracing the "new normal"
As we enter a kind of “new normal”, it’s incredible to see the changes to how we all live and shop. And in turn, we at Woolies are working hard to adapt our business to meet these changing needs.
As always, it’s very helpful to hear what’s on your mind, and once again I’ll do my best to address some of the key things we’ve heard this week.
Getting into the groove on Social Distancing and Hygiene
We are all getting better at managing social distancing, so thank you to everyone for keeping a trolley-length apart, and for your patience as and where we have to manage customer numbers in store.
The Woolworths App can really help here, by showing you where to find products in your local store, and by organising your shopping list by aisle. You can download it here and join 1.2m other active App users.
New customer hand sanitiser stations will be in the entrance of 95% of Woolworths Supermarkets by this Sunday, with the remainder coming next week. We’d encourage you to use these to sanitise your hands before you start your shop.
200 stores will have new clear screens between self-service ‘assisted’ checkouts by early next week, with others to follow soon after. These are in addition to the well-received screens at our staffed checkouts.
We continue to work on additional ways to keep us all collectively safe, with more to come on those as we roll them out.
Getting better every day on product availability
We’ve been able to remove more product limits this week, including on canned vegetables, canned legumes, canned tomatoes, serviettes and most baby products (excluding wipes).
Another 1.5 million units of hand sanitiser will come in this week, plus another 500,000 packs of pasta. These are big quantities but with demand still high, supply will remain patchy in parts.
It wouldn’t be an update without mentioning toilet paper. Supply isn’t back to normal yet, BUT it continues to improve as demand tapers, with ‘only’ 11.5 million rolls sold this week (versus 15m last week and 20m the week before) and lots more coming.
The changing habits of a nation at home ‘24/7’
Australians are shopping less often, but buying more when they do. We are shopping more locally, more in the mornings and less on Saturdays and Sundays.
The use of the Woolworths App is up 320%, driven by viewing our digital catalogue, planning a physical shop and online shopping itself. Traffic to our website has more than doubled, especially by those looking for recipe inspiration. And in April so far, cash payments in store are down 35% as we increasingly tap-and-go.
Product demand for breakfast, baking, cleaning and looking after ourselves are all trending materially up. With that in mind, it’s worth checking out this week’s digital catalogue here, with great specials on many of these categories.
Meeting the needs of online shoppers
Waiting times for Priority Assistance home deliveries are down dramatically. Phone wait times are down to 30 seconds from 27 minutes two weeks ago, with approval typically within the hour once the form is submitted.
We have significantly more windows available for Home Delivery, but demand remains high, especially as we prioritise our most vulnerable customers. Please check our website as we’re adding more windows every day.
Community Pick up is off to a terrific start with around 30,000 orders this week, allowing someone in the community to pick up an order on behalf of someone else.
We’ve partnered with PFD Food Services to better support essential services like daycare centres, schools, disability services and nursing homes with home delivery. These critical businesses can now place bulk orders for delivery from the PFD range through woolworths.com.au.
The Woolworths Basics Box is now available for anyone to order for themselves or as a gift. This week, we also made 5,000 boxes available to Indigenous communities in the NT and NSW.
Finally, our partnerships with OzHarvest, Fareshare and Foodbank are building further momentum, as we work together to provide food for the increasing number of Australians who need it most.
As we collectively confront the “new normal”, I am continually reminded that we are all in this together and that it is only by being better together that we can succeed.
As we head into the Easter long weekend, it’s now Week 7 since we experienced our first surge in demand.
Thank you for the feedback on last week’s email. I thought I’d try the same approach this week and again try to answer some of the key questions on your mind.
Where are we with toilet paper and other essential products?
We’re working very hard to keep up with demand for all the products that remain challenging, and we’re also starting to see some pleasing improvements.
Demand for toilet paper finally appears to be tapering, with this week’s sales expected to be around 15-16 million rolls. That’s still 45% up on last year, but with supply up 70% on last year, there is increasingly more on-shelf. But like every week so far, I’d still ask you to only buy what you need.
We do still have some issues on paper towels and tissues, with sales up 60-80%. That’s a staggering 2.75 million rolls of paper towels and more than 1.6 million boxes of tissues a week. These are big numbers and we’re working with our suppliers to bring in even more supply.
We’re also working hard to secure large volumes of hand sanitiser. Just this week we brought in 700,000 units, which is what we’d normally sell in 40 weeks. More will arrive in the coming weeks, but we’re still seeing limited stock in stores. We’ve also doubled our supply of cleaning and disinfectants, and you should see availability start to improve in the next few weeks.
Pasta sauce is still in short supply, despite an extra 850,000 units this week, while pasta itself has been improving. This week we’ve secured an additional 1,000 pallets – that’s another 500,000 packs.
The good news is that as things start to improve, we’ve been able to lift the 2-product limit on several products. This week, we lifted restrictions on oats and oral care, in addition to a longer list last week including fresh milk, packaged meat and breakfast cereals. You can check the full list online.
We’d especially like to apologise for the extra pressure product limits have placed on our customers in rural communities, who spend much more time getting to a store. This is critically important to us and we’re working hard to address it.
What about prices and why don’t there seem to be as many specials?
At the height of the surge in demand, we had no choice but to withdraw our printed catalogues and reduce the number of specials. This was simply so we could prioritise getting essential products to stores without our supply chain having to cope with the extra volume of products needed for a full program of specials.
We have still been running a digital catalogue (see below for a link to this week’s).
We’re working hard to increase the number of specials in the digital catalogue, plus looking at when we bring back a printed version. I would also call your attention to this week's Easter specials, including 6-pack Hot Cross Buns for just $3 per pack and Australian Tiger Prawns for $27 a kilo.
Outside of specials, we have seen some fluctuations in price. In fresh food, some of these are normal seasonal variations and some, like cauliflower and broccoli, are still seeing the longer-term impacts of drought and unseasonal growing conditions. Truss tomatoes, on the other hand, are starting to come down in price after improved weather in growing areas over the last two weeks.
We are incredibly sensitive to the financial pressures and uncertainty in Australia right now. Making sure everyone can ‘get their Woolies worth’ is a big priority for us, especially on everyday essentials.
What is Woolworths, and the broader grocery retail industry, doing to make shopping safer?
As grocery retailers, we’ve been working together on things like social distancing and hygiene. This includes agreeing on guidelines across the industry, plus openly (and legally) sharing good ideas. The focus this week is ensuring the safety of movement through our stores during Easter, which in some cases means managing the number of customers in store at any one time. We’re also working on additional ways to improve customer and team safety, and you should expect more on this in the coming weeks.
Thank you for your feedback on packing your own bags in store. As a result, we’ve changed our guidelines so our team can pack your bags for you when you buy new reusable bags with your shop.
Thanks also to the payments industry for further helping reduce physical contact in stores. Amex and Mastercard have lifted their transaction limit that requires a PIN to $200, with Visa and their card issuers working to do likewise.
When will online shopping be back up and running?
The good news is that Pick up is open again and we’ve opened significantly more Home Delivery windows. With demand so high, we continue to prioritise our most vulnerable customers. With more delivery windows opening up every day, please check our website for regular updates.
One of the initiatives I’m most proud of is Community Pick up. This allows someone in isolation to order online and for someone else in the community to pick up on their behalf. This is now available in more than 100 stores for drive-thru and 600 stores at the service desk.
We’re also going to extend the Woolworths Basics Box so it’s available to anyone in need, either for themselves or for delivery to others in the community. This will be available in VIC, NSW, SA, TAS, the ACT and SE Queensland from today, with WA, NT and the rest of QLD to follow at the end of next week. And at $80 for two weeks’ of essential supplies, including delivery, we’ve made this the lowest price we can.
And finally, as well as providing free hot beverages to healthcare workers in our Metro stores, we’re bringing a little Easter joy to those on the frontline. We’re donating over 20,000 Easter eggs and 20,000 Easter bunnies to healthcare workers in a number of hospitals across the country.
It’s a reminder that we’re all in this together, and if we continue to be better together, we will succeed.
Wishing you all a safe and happy Easter and Passover.
CEO, Woolworths Group
A little better every day.
It’s only 6 weeks since we saw the first wave of surge buying in our stores, following the reports from Northern Italy. So, I now wanted to give you an update on some of the questions I’m hearing most from you, and even from my own family.
When will you be back to normal on toilet paper, pasta, wipes and other products?
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. 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.
With pasta, we have an extra 1,000 pallets a week coming in, which is 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.
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.
And an interesting fact. Two of our highest growth categories this week have been cake mixes and household cleaning products. A lot more kids are baking and parents cleaning as we all spend more time at home.
How are you making shopping as safe as possible, and why aren't all of your team wearing gloves and masks?
We’ve put many new measures in place to help make our stores a safer place to shop, many as a direct result of feedback from store teams and customers. These include:
The current guidance from the Department of Health is that it’s not necessary for our teams to wear masks and gloves in store. However, we know that many of our team feel more comfortable wearing gloves, so we are providing them as an option if they choose.
When will online Delivery and Pick up come back?
And when will you clear the long wait for Priority Assistance?
We are making good progress reactivating home delivery, area by area. We’re hoping 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.
From Monday, Priority Assistance Partner Pick Up will start to be available, allowing customers to place an order online for someone to pick up on their behalf. That will be in more than 100 stores for drive-thru and 600 stores at the service desk.
We’ve delivered thousands of the Woolworths Basics Box to help the growing number of people in self-isolation. They are already in NSW, ACT, VIC, SA and TAS with more states rolling out shortly.
Our customer care team has now doubled in size and we are answering 60% more calls than we were last week. And whilst the average phone wait time for Priority Assistance home delivery is still too long at 27 minutes, it is coming down rapidly with more people on our team to support you.
Most importantly, is Easter still coming this year?
That’s the easy one, yes it is. Easter at home will be different this year, but you should still be able to get your Easter favourites at Woolworths.
In summary, we are making progress. In partnership with our customers, the broader industry and State, Territory and Federal Governments, we are getting a little better every day.
CEO, Woolworths Group
Looking after each other
We have collectively experienced another week of changes that are having a significant impact on how we all live.
Our team is working hard to keep our stores open, safe, clean and stocked with products. This, of course, includes our teams in our whole supply chain and support network.
Helping those who need it most
Now more than ever, I want to assure you that we remain focused on supporting the most vulnerable in our community.
We have reduced the trading hours at 41 stores across the country to 11am-6pm, so that we can use them as Priority Home Delivery Hubs.
In the extra hours these stores will be closed to the public, our team will pick online orders for Priority Assistance deliveries to the elderly, people with disability, those with a compromised immune system or people in mandatory isolation.
Our dedicated early morning shopping hours for the elderly and people with disability will also continue and we will look to refine and adjust it going forward.
To check store opening hours or register for Priority Assistance, visit woolworths.com.au/updates
Our partnership with Meals on Wheels has allowed us to supply over 75,000 packs of toilet paper to the elderly. And we’re also pleased to increase our commitment to our hunger relief partners OzHarvest, Foodbank and FareShare at a time when they are seeing a huge surge in demand for meals and basic essentials for those most in need.
Additional safety measures in stores
Safety starts with social distancing and hygiene, and in addition to the guidelines we announced last weekend, we are continuing to introduce some new measures to support the wellbeing of our customers and team. These include:
We expect to roll-out further measures in the upcoming week, many of them a direct result of your feedback and suggestions.
We realise these are uncertain times and know that Woolworths has an important role to play in keeping as many Australians employed as possible.
We are looking to hire up to 20,000 extra people across our business to help us meet the needs of customers in stores and expand home deliveries in the months ahead.
Our immediate focus will be the redeployment of team members from our ALH hotels business impacted by this week’s mandatory closures. Plus we’re working with many other businesses including Qantas, Village Roadshow, Cotton On and others to help find their employees roles. We are of course hopeful that these businesses will bounce back strongly once this crisis passes and in the meantime, we all get the benefit of their teams’ collective experience.
We know there’s so much more we can all do, and if we continue to work together and look after each other, we will get through this stronger than ever.
With thanks and appreciation
CEO, Woolworths Group
We can only do this together
These are undoubtedly testing times for all Australians, given the impact COVID-19 is having on the way we live. And if you believe the experts, we still have a long way to go.
At Woolworths, we accept that this is no longer business as usual. In the last four weeks, we have seen a huge surge in demand, which inevitably means you’re seeing material product shortages on our shelves.
Like all Australian grocery retailers, our aim is to provide the food and essential products all our customers need. This absolutely remains our focus, but we need your help.
In the spirit of fairness for all Australians, especially those who need our help the most, we have made some changes. These include:
New product limits
We ask you to please respect these limits and only buy what you need. If we all do this, there is more than enough to go around.
For the latest details on limits, please visit woolworths.com.au/stockupdates
We have also introduced Priority Assistance home deliveries to help the elderly, people with disability and those in mandatory isolation. To apply for Priority Assistance delivery, please complete the form at woolworths.com.au/priorityassistance.
Dedicated shopping hour
This week, we introduced a Dedicated hour for the elderly and people with disability to shop between 7am and 8am before we open to everyone. It was a “rocky” start, but it is getting better. And because we want to do whatever we can to help those most in need, we’ve decided to extend it for at least another week.
Online orders for Pick up and Delivery
To help our stores cope with the huge increase in demand, we have had to suspend Pick up in all stores, and have paused home deliveries in many areas. However, we know that home delivery will only become more important, so we are working hard to ramp this up as much as we can.
The health and wellbeing of our customers and team will always be our top priority. With that in mind, we have made some changes intended to protect everyone. These include:
We have introduced some sensible guidelines for social distancing in store. These include using the size of your trolley as a distance guide between you and other shoppers, following markers on the floor at the checkouts and using tap-and-pay whenever you can. We’d also ask that you wash or sanitise your hands before you come into a store.
We have moved to a contactless delivery service with all orders delivered to your front door only. All orders will be placed in reusable bags and we’ve also suspended our crate to bench service.
Cleaning and hygiene
As an extra precaution, we have significantly increased cleaning across all our stores with many stores doubling their cleaning time from 5 to 10 hours every day. We’ve also upgraded to hospital-grade disinfectant and are focusing on regular cleaning of counters and other surfaces. And as well as thorough hand washing, you’ll start to see many of our team - including checkout operators - wearing protective gloves.
Our teams are working incredibly hard to support the communities we are proud to serve. We ask that you continue to treat them, and each other, with the respect and kindness everyone deserves.
Finally, a heartfelt thank you for your continued patience, support and compassion. We can only do this if we work together and look out for each other. If we do this, I have no doubt we will collectively overcome this once-in-a-generation challenge.
CEO Woolworths Group
An update from Woolworths
These remain challenging times and with the situation evolving, I'd like to share what Woolworths is doing to support our customers, team members and the community.
Helping you get access to what you need
We've been working hard to keep our shelves stocked and Delivery and Pick up windows available. However, as you are no doubt aware, demand is still very high and products are being bought more quickly than usual when they arrive in store.
To help everyone access the essential things they need, limits are now in place on toilet paper, wipes, paper towels, serviettes, rice and some other items.
It also, unfortunately, means that toilet paper won't be available for Pick up orders for the time being, but our team will be happy to see if toilet paper is available in-store when you come in to pick up your order.
Our toilet paper suppliers continue to work on meeting increased demand, and we're working with some suppliers to prioritise the production of smaller pack sizes, so we can make more packs available to you this week.
We're actively helping seniors in our community
We've now partnered with Meals On Wheels to begin the delivery of toilet paper directly to seniors in need. The first deliveries were made in NSW today and we're doing what we can to expand this service in the weeks to come.
Our stores are being cleaned more than usual
As a food retailer, we already have very high standards of cleaning and hygiene in place. However, as a precautionary measure and out of care for everyone's wellbeing, we've added an extra 4 hours of proactive deep cleaning in each Supermarket every day.
Keeping you updated if there is a case in one of our stores
If one of our customers or team members is confirmed with COVID-19, we'll let you know in that store. We continue to take advice from the Department of Health to make sure we're taking all the necessary steps to ensure ongoing safety, including additional detailed cleaning in store where necessary.
Looking after our team members
This week we announced a number of extra ways we're supporting our teams during this time. This includes making sure we look after anyone impacted by the outbreak, whether they are full-time, part-time or casual. We will, of course, keep our focus on our team members as the situation changes.
In the meantime, I'd like to thank you for your continued patience and for showing respect and support for our team as they work hard to support you and our local communities.
CEO, Woolworths Group