Woolworths, Coles to Limit Shoppers to Enforce Social-Distancing

April 4, 2020 Updated: April 5, 2020

SYDNEY—Starting April 6, Australian shoppers may find themselves queuing up outside Woolworths and Coles waiting for their turn to shop. The two largest supermarket groups will begin capping in-store shopper numbers starting Monday in a bid to enhance social-distance enforcement.

Woolworth announced the new move in a statement released on April 4, saying that “it will be limiting the number of customers allowed in store from time to time to enable social distancing between customers.”

The number allowed in the store at any one time will depend on the size and location of the store, and will be managed on a “one in, one out” basis, as well as using common sense discretion.

Signage will be set up outside stores to show people where to line up, and centre management security and police may be involved in managing the queue at peak times to ensure customers are keeping at least 1.5 metres (around 5 feet) apart from each other.

Woolworth Supermarkets Managing Director, Claire Peters explained that the new limit serves to maintain a safe environment for customers and staff, and has proven effective overseas.

“We know it may take some getting used to, but we ask our customers to be patient with us during this time.

“Supermarkets overseas have successfully adopted similar measures,” Peters said in the statement.

Coles announced a similar move to limit in-store customers also starting Monday in the video “How to be a speedy shopper at Coles.” In it, they advise customers, “we may ask you to queue when you arrive.”

The video also encourages customers to shop alone when possible, and to keep a trolley-length between themselves and others while shopping.

Major retailers and supermarket chains in the United States have adopted similar measures.

Target kicked off shopper restriction policies on April 3, following Costo and other supermarket chains.

Walmart is doing the same and says it will go one step further.

“We’ll also institute one-way movement through our aisles next week in a number of our stores, using floor markers and direction from associates,” according to the company’s press release.