Woolworths will shut all its stores early on Wednesday night, in order to replenish stock decimated by coronavirus panic buying

(Photo by Hugh Peterswald/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
  • Woolworths has announced it will close its stores at 8pm on Wednesday 16 March in order to give its teams a chance to replenish stock.
  • Woolworths Supermarkets managing director Claire Peters said in a press conference the company “[does] not have a concern about the supply” of product.
  • Stores across the country have seen shortages of essential products like toilet paper
    thanks to a surge in demand led by coronavirus fears, which has forced Woolworths and rival supermarket chains to introduce buying limits.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Woolworths will close all of its stores at 8pm on Wednesday in order to give staff the opportunity to replenish stock which has been decimated in recent weeks by increased demand caused by coronavirus panic buying.

Speaking at a press conference, Woolworths Supermarkets managing director Claire Peters said the company was not concerned about supply of their product, but needed a chance to refill store inventory in the face of “unprecedented” demand.

“I can assure you, due to most of our products being manufactured or grown in Australia, we do not have a concern with the supply of our product,” Peters said.

“What we are seeing here is a significant demand spike in some key products. We’ve got some very good data which shows us what our customers are buying, and what their usage is for two weeks – that will then enable us to ensure that everyone has as much ability to get the products that they need.

A spokesperson for Woolworths confirmed all Woolworths locations would close early on Wednesday with the exception of Brisbane Airport, Town Hall and QV Melbourne.

However, Peters did not rule out placing further buying restrictions on other products. “We want to slow the panic down,” she said. Woolworths has placed limits on several products, including toilet paper, hand sanitiser, and rice.

The announcement followed an earlier confirmation by the supermarket chain that it would open its doors an hour earlier, at 7am, exclusively for elderly shoppers and people with disabilities, giving them an opportunity to pick up in-demand items which are often sold out soon after doors open.

Confusion ensued after a second announcement was published by several media outlets that Woolworths was going to suspend all deliveries. Woolworths later clarified this was not the case, with delivery still available across most of the country – albeit limited by high demand.

Photos of bare store shelves have dominated social media over the past few weeks, as fears of an coronavirus quarantine led many customers to stock up on essentials in anticipation. These demand spikes have upset the razor-thin supply equilibrium maintained by Australia’s supermarket chains – causing shortages of supply which have done little to dissuade shoppers there is a crisis unfolding.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was “concerned” with the toilet paper situation, and had met with the bosses of Woolworths and Coles to ensure supply would continue.


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