Major retailer trials ‘book a shop’

As our everyday life continues to evolve, with face masks now considered obligatory on some outings in stage three lockdown areas, one supermarket has created a tool aimed at keeping customers safer while they shop.

Major supermarkets implemented a special shopping hour for older Australians and those with a disability during the first lockdown, but removed it when restrictions eased across the country and supplies of highly sought-after products returned to normal.

But in a fresh bid to help keep shoppers safe, Woolworths has developed a tool to allow you to check how busy your local supermarket is or book a time slot and jump any queues. Q-Tracker is described by Woolworths as “a new tool that uses real-time data to show the length of the queue to enter our stores. By helping you plan when and where you shop before you leave home, Q-Tracker makes it easy to avoid busy periods, save time and shop with your safety in mind.”

The aim is to supplement the social distancing measures and hygiene practices.

In Q-Tracker, you post your postcode and the suburb you wish to shop in and you’ll be informed about any wait times and be able to see the busiest times of the day.

In another trial, customers at four Woolworths stores are being invited to book 15-minute time slots to ensure they can avoid any queues. Woolworths director of stores Robert Moffat said the system would be trialled in Taylors Lakes, Hampton Park, South Melbourne and St Helena in Victoria.

“This means [customers] will be able to head straight into the store without needing to stand in a queue and be able to safely practise social distancing,” he said.

Explaining the reasons behind Q-Tracker, he added: “By helping customers plan when and where they shop before they leave home, Q-Tracker makes it easier to avoid busy periods, save time and shop with health and safety in mind.

“Even though most of our stores do not need to implement queuing at the moment, this tool has been developed as another measure to support the safety of our team and customers.”

The lockdown in Melbourne has also spurred another wave of panic buying and supermarkets in Victoria have reimposed some purchasing limits – with toilet paper, pasta and flour again the main items on the restricted list.

Bunnings is another retailer aiming to be more innovative in these challenging times. Managing director Michael Schneider said it was introducing an in-store “product finder” and was calling customers using its contactless “drive and collect” service to enable them to pick up their online orders at preferred collection times.

“We’re using new technology with our trade customers that allows them to self-checkout on their phones and for our consumer customers we’ve introduced a product-finder app to make their store visits more efficient,” he said.

Coles employees are again greeting customers with hand sanitiser and disinfectant wipes and are continuing to disinfect baskets and trolleys. Foot traffic was being closely monitored at the busiest stores.

The government has also advised that adults living in areas under stage three restrictions wear a face mask when outside their home if it was difficult to keep 1.5m apart.

In other news, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced yesterday that it was seeking to allow supermarkets to continue cooperating on grocery supply until March 2021 “to ensure the continued supply of food and groceries during the COVID-19 pandemic”.

ACCC commissioner Stephen Ridgeway said: “We know there has been unprecedented demand for groceries and other household products, and believe there are clear benefits in allowing this conduct to continue while the pandemic remains an issue.”

The draft determination allows supermarkets to coordinate with each other when working with manufacturers, suppliers and transport and logistics providers. It does not extend to the prices of retail products.

“The recent outbreak in Melbourne has highlighted the benefit of this authorisation, with supermarkets and authorities able to meet and coordinate their responses rapidly, maximising the availability of groceries and other essential goods,” Mr Ridgeway said.

“The authorisation facilitates supermarkets working together to ensure everyone, including vulnerable consumers or those from rural and remote areas, have fair and reliable access to fresh food, groceries and other household goods.”

Are you pleased with how supermarkets and other big retailers have responded to the shopping challenges in recent months? Is there more that they could be doing?

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Written by Janelle Ward


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