All Pick n Pay supermarkets and hypermarkets will open an hour earlier every Wednesday, starting tomorrow, to allow elderly customers to shop.
Stores will be opened exclusively for customers over the age of 65 from 7am to 8am. A valid ID should be presented on entrance to the store.
Pick n Pay’s retail executive: marketing, John Bradshaw, said: “A special shopping hour for pensioners was a great suggestion by our online community and we very quickly worked with our stores to make this a reality.
“All our actions are focused on supporting the wellbeing of our customers. We know that the coronavirus is more of a threat to older people, and it is thus especially important that our older customers limit the number of times they are in busy spaces as much as possible. This dedicated shopping hour for our elderly customers will give them exclusive use of the store.”
The move is likely to be implemented by other stores and mirrors similar steps taken elsewhere in the world.
Australia’s elderly were also let in early to supermarkets on Tuesday ,but there were still scenes of coronavirus panic buying in some areas, with reports of empty shelves and large queues.
After rushes on groceries, Australia’s biggest supermarket chain opened exclusively for elderly and disabled shoppers for an hour in an attempt to let them purchase essentials such toilet paper — which has repeatedly sold out and sparked several violent incidents, as in South Africa.
But the move prompted long queues outside several stores in Sydney and Melbourne, with reports of shoppers leaving empty-handed.
“It’s day one of our dedicated shopping hour and we know it wasn’t perfect across all of our stores,” Woolworths Supermarkets Managing Director Claire Peters said in a statement.
Supermarkets would learn from today and continue the early hour shopping through the week, Peters said.
Despite security guards blocking younger shoppers from entering stores, unprecedented demand still led to many items disappearing.
At Woolworths’ Neutral Bay store in Sydney’s north shopper sentiment about the move was mixed.
“It is important but I don’t think it is the best way. The best way, I think must be delivery at home because you look at a 93-year-old coming shopping, it’s better to do delivery,” 71-year-old Irie Voico told AFP as he waited for the store to open.
Another customer, who didn’t want to be identified, said he was worried about bringing all the elderly together in a group where coronavirus could easily spread.
But several welcomed the move, saying the mood was good among those older shoppers turning out early to avoid chaotic scenes.
“This morning was well managed, full marks to Woolworths. Everyone was well mannered in there,” said 75-year-old Max Hill said.
Robyn Swan, 73, said the mood at the store yesterday had been frantic when shelves were bare but today they had been restocked.
“I’ve got what I wanted. I’m trying not to do the frantic shopping but I can see it’s easy to do but I live on my own so I don’t need to panic like my children with their grandchildren,” Swan said.
Australia has about 400 confirmed cases of coronavirus so far, with five fatalities.