9 April 2020
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 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