Huge change for 200 Coles stores
The supply of essential groceries is almost back to normal - and trading hours in hundreds of Coles stores will be expanded within days as a result.
According to the supermarket giant, the buying frenzy sparked by the coronavirus pandemic - which saw staples like toilet paper, pasta and rice stripped from shelves - has eased, and the company is preparing to return to regular services.
From this Friday, almost 200 stores will open earlier at 6am in an attempt to help ease the pressure faced by all Australians, including those working from home as well as parents and carers who are busy homeschooling their children.
For the past seven weeks, the first hour of trade from 7am to 8am on weekdays has been dedicated to Coles Community Hour, so elderly and vulnerable customers as well as emergency services and healthcare workers could have access to essential food and groceries.
But the last Community Hour will be held this Thursday morning.
Coles chief operations officer Matt Swindells said the initiative had been a hit with eligible customers, but that it would soon be business as usual as demand for groceries and product availability returned to more normal levels.
"Our number one priority remains the health and safety of customers and our team members. As the Government begins to look at easing restrictions, customers should remember that appropriate safety practices will still apply and ask all customers to support with the same amazing collaboration we've seen in the past few weeks," he said.
"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.
"Having a dedicated shopping hour for some of the most vulnerable members of the community, as well as those working on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic, was really beneficial.
"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."
Coles has also reopened Coles Online orders, which had been dedicated entirely to elderly and vulnerable customers during the peak of demand, to all shoppers.
"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," Mr Swindells said.
The health and safety of customers and staff remains a top priority, with the company creating guidelines on how to stay safe and minimise your contact with other people by being a "Coles Speedy Shopper" - including by planning ahead, shopping alone and packing your own bags at the checkout.
The team is sanitising trolleys and baskets between customers, and in the busiest stores, Coles continues to monitor customer numbers to help maintain social distancing and will sometimes require customers to wait before entering.
Coles is also working on a rollout of new sanitiser stations in supermarkets, incorporating wipes for trolleys and baskets, and will continue to roll out clear protective screens at staffed and self-scanning checkouts to help maintain social distancing in stores.
Originally published as Huge change for 200 Coles shops