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COVID affecting logistics, leading to empty shelves in Hawkesbury supermarkets

Jan 8, 2022


Hardly news to those of you out shopping for food and other essential items, but a couple of pictures here today of the Coles store at North Richmond at 10.51am, specifically the meat shelves, and it’s a picture being repeated across not only our region but Australia.


The reason? A shortage of logistics staff – the people who work in the distribution centres and drive the trucks – and also a drop in the number of staff on duty at the supermarkets because of COVID.


Staff are either sick with the virus or having to isolate because they are a close contact of someone who has COVID. Again, it’s a situation being repeated across the country as the case numbers climb.


In Coles North Richmond’s case, we’re told the hoist on the back delivery dock stopped working Friday night so no loads could be delivered. Many of the technicians who work for the company who fix this equipment are off with COVID, we’re told, so it’s taking longer to get it fixed.


So it’s not just about hospital admissions, COVID is having a devastating effect across many businesses.


As Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci points out, it’s not actually any shortage of food or other essential items, it is simply proving difficult to get those goods into supermarkets, and on to the shelves.


“It’s not yet clear how soon the system will come back into balance as we move through the Omicron wave”


“Unlike the surge buying of early 2020 (who could forget the toilet paper), this is because of the number of people in our supply chain in isolation – from suppliers to truck drivers and distribution centre team members – which in turn is causing material delays to store deliveries,” says Mr Banducci.


He also points out that if you’re shopping online, as a temporary measure Woolies is automatically “activating substitutions on all orders”.


“We know this isn’t ideal,” he says, “but it does mean there’s less chance of missing out on something you really need. We’ll revert to your preference as soon as possible.”


“To give you a sense of the magnitude of the challenge, we are experiencing COVID-driven absences of 20%+ in our distribution centres and 10%+ in our stores,” he says, and that is the same for Coles and Aldi.


“NSW is currently the most affected, although we are seeing impacts across the whole country, and it’s not yet clear how soon the system will come back into balance as we move through the Omicron wave,” he added.


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