Saturday, 8 January 2022

Out-of-control COVID-19 surge in NSW causing supply problems right across the country

The text of an email being sent by the Woolworths Group on Friday, 7 January 2022:

Dear [redacted],

On behalf of the whole team at Woolworths, I’d like to wish you a very Happy New Year and hope that you were able to enjoy the festive period.

As we welcome in 2022, it’s clear that we are entering a very different phase of COVID, not least because of the high levels of community transmission associated with Omicron.

When you’re shopping with us at the moment, you might unfortunately have noticed gaps on shelf, or substitutions in your online order. 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. 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. [my yellow highlighting]

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.

We understand how frustrating it is when you can’t find the product you’re looking for and, together with our suppliers and supply chain partners, we’re working hard to get all products back on shelf as quickly as we can (including Rapid Antigen Tests).

In the meantime, we have more than enough stock in the system and plenty more coming. We also have good supply within each ‘category’ of product (even if your favourite isn’t available, a good alternative hopefully should be), so it really helps if you can be flexible with the choices you make. We would of course also ask you to keep shopping as you normally would and to continue to show kindness to our teams.

If you’re shopping online, as a temporary measure we are automatically activating substitutions on all orders. We know this isn’t ideal, 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.

As we transition to living with COVID in 2022, we’ll need to keep learning and adapting. We’ll communicate any changes to our settings as they arise so that we can keep providing the safest possible way for you to enjoy everything you’d expect from Today’s Fresh Food People.

Thank you again for your support and understanding as we go over the Omicron hump.

Brad Banducci

CEO Woolworths Group