Woolies CEO concerned Vic restrictions will impact Christmas supply

Supermarket giant Woolworths has raised concerns that tight Covid-19 restrictions in Victoria could hamper the distribution of groceries to its stores in the lead up to Christmas. 

Woolworths and Coles were among 100+ business leaders invited to take part in an industry round table with the Victorian government on Wednesday led by The Business Council of Australia (BCA). 

Woolworths was asked to share its expectations of how shortages in individual stores could have on community movements based on shopping behaviour at the height of panic buying in March and April.

In a statement shared with Inside Retail, Woolworths Group chief executive Brad Banducci said the retailer has had open dialogue with the Victorian government to help inform decision making in this “unique” environment. 

“We’ve been working to support the Government’s overarching health objective of reducing community movements to help prevent the spread of Covid-19,” Banducci said. 

“As part of this, we’ve shared data-driven insights on anticipated shopping behaviour in the lead up to the busy Christmas season to help inform policy making as it relates to our supply chains.” 

The retail boss said Woolworths will continue to work closely with the government to help reduce community movement wherever possible, while also ensuring Victorians have access to their essential needs in a Covid-safe environment over the holiday period.

Woolworths alone has over 600 sites in Victoria welcoming over 5 million shoppers per week. If distribution centres and suppliers are unable to run at full capacity in the lead up to the busy Christmas period, supermarkets could struggle to keep shelves replenished when demand ramps up.

Woolworths, Aldi, Coles, Metcash and other grocery companies have been working together since March to overcome Covid-19 challenges related to manufacturing, supply and logistics. 

The ACCC recently gave these retailers permission to continue doing so until March 31 next year to avoid further instances of grocery stockpiling and empty supermarket shelves.

Since the release of Victoria’s roadmap to recovery on Sunday, many retail businesses have raised concern over the continuing of stage 4 restrictions and the impact on the industry. 

Under the new plans, stay-at-home restrictions remain in place until at least October 26, while the nightly curfew will start an hour later at 9pm and run until 5am from September 14.