Supermarkets launch COVID-19 contingency plans

UK supermarkets have begun to roll-out opening hours for vulnerable customers and are set to focus staff on ensuring the supply of food and essentials in response to the Coronavirus outbreak.

Marks & Spencer has introduced dedicated shopping hours for older and vulnerable customers during the first hour of trading every Monday and Thursday in all of its stores and will introduce contact-free delivery for clothing, home, flowers, hampers and wine.

M&S will also have an hour dedicated to NHS and emergency service workers for the first hour of trading on Tuesday and Friday morning. There will be temporary restrictions of two items per customer on frozen foods, homecare, groceries and eggs, with 4,600 staff members transferred from M&S clothing and home and cafe teams to support demand in food.

Sainsbury’s announced yesterday that the first hour of trade in every supermarket would be for elderly and vulnerable customers, while those over the age of 70 or with a disability would have priority access to online delivery slots from 23 March.

Online customers will also be able to Click and Collect from points from stores and car parks around the country. To keep up with increased demand for essential food items, cafes and meat, fish and pizza counters will be closed and staff reallocated to stocking shelves, Sainsbury’s said.

Meanwhile, Waitrose said it was also dedicating the first hour of opening as priority shopping time for the elderly, vulnerable and carers, while cafes and rotisseries will be closed. The chain also said that many in-demand products would be capped and certain stores would close early.

Waitrose is creating a £1 million community support fund which will go towards setting up additional local delivery services to support those isolated in their homes and for delivering essential items to local care homes and community groups. There will also be a service for donating products to create care packages for customers to share with vulnerable neighbours.

Tesco is to introduce a shopping hour for NHS staff starting one hour before normal store opening times every Sunday, starting on 22 March. There will also be a priority shopping hour every Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 9 and 10am for our more vulnerable and elderly customers.

The supermarket chain is also introducing a storewide restriction of only three items per customer on every product line, and removing multi-buy promotions and all meat, fish, deli counters and salad bars will be closed. Distancing measures will also be introduced at checkouts to reduce the risk of infection.

The Co-op is set to fast track recruitment of 5,000 store colleagues in a bid to provide temporary employment for hospitality workers who have lost their jobs.

Morrisons is also creating an extra 3,500 roles in stores and distribution centres to help cope with increased demand for essential food items. Home delivery services will also be expanded both on Morrisons.com and on Amazon Prime Now.

Earlier this week, Ocado was forced to close its mobile app and turn away new orders following a reported 1,000 per cent jump in website traffic forced it to inform customers not to wait, as it had “no new delivery slots for the next few days”.

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