Woolworths adapting to consumer expectations and protections for “new normal”, CEO

Posted by Media Release Agency on 12th May 2020

Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci has emailed a “Final” Covid-19 Update to Woolworths Reward shoppers. This follows Federal and state government announcements on Friday 8 May 2020 of a 3-stage easing of the lockdown and further economic policy transitions.

In this email, Banducci shares some of the highlights, the changes, and feedback that the community has had on Woolworth’s strategies and adaptation to COVID 19.

“Over the last 9 weeks, it has been both interesting and gratifying to see how we, as a community of grocery shoppers, have adapted to this time of dramatic change. It shows just how resilient and resourceful we are.

These are some of this week’s highlights for me:

We are becoming healthier and more adventurous in our cooking
While the slow cooking movement continues, we’re also becoming increasingly adventurous. Ingredients such as cardamom, saffron and dried sesame seeds have doubled in sales. Roasted peppers are up 65%, Asian and hot chilli sauces are both up 40% and capers are up 35%.

We’re also well into soup season. What’s interesting this year is the explosive growth of dried soup mix packets (up 200%) as people make more warming soup at home.

It’s also interesting to see customers think about their health, with a big rise in vitamin sales, plus ground ginger and turmeric sales up 120% and sauerkraut up 76%. On a related topic, sales of cough and cold products are much lower this year compared to last year.

We are well and truly in the safe shopping groove
Over the last few months, we’ve made some material changes and investments for the health and safety of our customers and teams. At the moment, we don’t foresee the need for any significant new social distancing or hygiene initiatives, but we do continue to fine tune and adapt what we already have.

To help with customer flow and social distancing in some of our smaller stores, we’re introducing one-way aisles, which you’ll start to see in many Metro branded stores from this week.

We had some teething issues with some of the hand sanitiser units in stores this week (with too much dispensing), which we’re fixing as quickly as we can.

We continue to make masks available to those team members who want them and our voluntary temperature checks for team members are a big hit.

As shopping patterns become more predictable, we’ll be going back to our regular trading hours across most of our Woolworths stores from Monday. We’ve also now brought back extended hours for late-night Thursday shopping at BIG W. You can check your local Woolworths store’s updated hours here and BIG W here.

That means we’ll phase out the Community Hour we introduced at Woolworths during the demand surge, but after receiving a lot of constructive feedback, it’s something we wouldn’t hesitate to bring back if required. In parallel, later today we will start offering a permanent 10% discount on Delivery Unlimited for over-60s. See details here.

We have become “digital natives”
In a previous email, I talked about how much the Woolworths App can help you plan your shopping trip – and it now also includes the full digital catalogue. If you haven’t downloaded it yet, you can here.

In addition to the Woolworths App, the first version of our new Woolworths Rewards app is coming soon. It’s packed with features to help you get the most out of your Rewards and easily track your points – so keep an eye out for it when it launches.

Finally, the Department of Health’s COVIDSafe App. I have personally downloaded it and have encouraged our 190,000 Australian team members to do likewise. The app offers a simple and practical way for each of us to help prevent further outbreaks. You can read more about it here.

Finally, we are increasingly back in supply of everyday essentials
I am very pleased to report that sales of most products are back to pre-COVID-19 levels. This easing of demand means we’ve been able to lift the product limits on essentials like rice, pasta sauce, noodles, cleaning products, sugar and eggs. Just 6 categories still have limits in place (down from 45 at the height of the surge) and we’re hoping we can lift more next week.

On the critical issue of toilet paper, sales dropped by 4 million rolls last week, now below the sales of the corresponding week last year! This week we are on track to sell between 9m and 9.5m rolls, well down on our peak of 39.7 million rolls a week in mid March or 11m rolls this time last year.

Living in the new normal
Thank you for letting me be part of your lives over the last few months by opening, reading and in many cases responding to my updates. It’s been a privilege. But as we are now living in the new normal, it feels like the right time for me to sign off on the regular emails and provide updates a little less frequently.

I think this email that I received from a customer this week says it all:

“Hi Brad, Thanks for the updates over the past few weeks.
I have noticed toilet paper stocked up at my local Woolworths branch, very pleased to see this. I have also seen hand sanitizer that wasn’t behind the counter.
Since things are largely back to normal I don’t think it is necessary for the weekly updates anymore, but if anything changes then you know how to get in touch with me.”

I continue to be humbled by the tireless work of our teams, the positive collaboration of our partners and the wonderful Australian spirit in each of our communities.

It’s a reminder that we are all in this together, and it’s only by continuing to be better together that we can succeed in the new normal. ” – Brad Banducci, Woolworths CEO.