Customers fretting over setting foot in high-traffic retail outlets like supermarkets are creating online and logistical headaches for Coles and Woolworths, with the nation’s biggest merchants buffeted by online buying surges that have stretched delivery networks.
Woolworths on Tuesday confirmed it was gradually restoring its “Delivery Now” service for online purchases in Sydney after it unexpectedly pulled the short time fulfilment service late last week.
The suspension came amid frenzied consumer purchasing behaviour across products ranging from toilet paper to tinned tuna and microwave rice fuelled by uncertainty around the extent of Covid19 infections in Australia’s cities.
“Delivery Now was temporarily suspended in Sydney from Wednesday to Sunday,” a Woolworths spokesperson told iTnews.
“We opened up Delivery Now orders from eight Sydney stores on Monday. We plan to have all 32 stores up and running again by the end of the week.”
Coles is understood to have been hit with a similar surge, with reports saying it has been directing online customers to click-and-collect facilities rather than home deliveries for online purchases.
And while the sudden surge in online orders might look like a big bonus for the retailers, the reality is that both the major supermarket brands have only just made online sales profit margin accretive, with click-and-collect the gamechanger.
What’s less clear is whether the limitations around online delivery have propelled consumer anxieties over the availability of some goods as retailers impose purchasing limits on items like toilet paper to rein-in the run on stock.
Woolies says it is doing its best.
“Like our supermarkets, our online teams have been working hard to manage higher than usual demand for deliveries over the past week,” a Woolworths spokesperson said.
“Delivery windows have been filling up faster than usual and we apologise to customers for the inconvenience this has caused.
“We’ve been ramping up our delivery capacity with the support of our transport partners and doing all we can to fulfil orders for our customers as quickly as possible.”
Comment has been sought from Coles.