Woolworths introduces two-pack buying limits on meat, toilet paper, and painkillers

Headshot of Caitlyn Rintoul
Caitlyn RintoulThe West Australian
Woolworths has introduced buying limits at their WA stores after supply issues and panic buying have seen shelves cleared.
Camera IconWoolworths has introduced buying limits at their WA stores after supply issues and panic buying have seen shelves cleared. Credit: Supplied

Woolworths has introduced buying limits at their WA stores after supply issues and panic buying have seen shelves cleared.

Two packet restrictions have been placed on toilet paper, painkillers, and meats, including sausages, mince, and poultry.

The announcement follows rival Coles move to cap toilet paper and selected medications on Wednesday, after consumers drove up demand for the essentials and shelves began to empty.

“Please only buy what you need,” new signs state at Woolworth stores.

“We are working hard to meet the shopping demand of as many customers as possible. Limits are in place across the store, and will be updated as product availability changes.”

Two pack limits on meat, toilet paper and pain killers has been introduced at Woolworths stores. Photo: Supplied. supplied
Camera IconTwo pack limits on meat, toilet paper and pain killers has been introduced at Woolworths stores. Photo: Supplied. supplied Credit: supplied/supplied

The restrictions on meat relate both to pre-packaged mince and poultry but also to the Woolworths deli range.

Woolworths stores director Jeanette Fenske thanked customers for their patience and understanding and urged them to be kind to staff.

“(They’re) doing everything they can to support them during this challenging time,” she said.

“We understand this is an anxious time for our customers across the country, but we will remain open and operational as an essential service.”

It comes as the State’s supply chain from the east coast is impacted by high rates of COVID absenteeism, a term referring to warehouse, packing, truck drivers and other logistics staff who have had to isolate because they are infected or they’re been deemed a close contact. The rate in some sectors is as high as 50 per cent.

Woolworths has had a one-pack purchase limits on rapid antigen kits since it first began selling them last year after there was high demand amid outbreaks in NSW, Victoria and Queensland. RAT kits only became legal in WA on Monday with chemists introducing a one kit per customer policy.

Empty toilet roll and hand towel shelves at Woolworths Mt Hawthorn Ben Mclellan
Camera IconEmpty toilet roll and hand towel shelves at Woolworths Mt Hawthorn Ben Mclellan Credit: Ben Mclellan/The West Australian

Independent grocers are also restricting the sale of some of its items, with select IGA stores capping sales on popular products.

In Perth’s north, Kinross IGA warned shoppers on Wednesday evening that their staff was cracking down on “bulk purchasing — until further notice”.

“(This is) so that everyone in out local community, particularly, our elderly and those with disabilities, have the chance to get what they need,” Kinross IGA management said.

Supply Chain and Logistics Association of Australia State president Brian Lynn predicted grocery shelves would continue to be empty past the February 5 border reopening.

“There’s certainly empty shelves in WA. In particular, I’ve noticed toilet paper. I’m not sure what proportion of that is supply issues from over east and what proportion is panic buying but I have a gut feeling it’s a bit of each,” he said.

“It’s going to get very interesting close to the February 5 border opening, in terms of consumer perception of what’s going to happen and whether they will feel they need to stockpile.”

The West on Sunday revealed the toll WA supermarkets were already reportedly experiencing empty shelves due to major staff shortages of up to 35 per cent at their east coast distribution centres over isolation requirements.

Woolworths Group chief executive Brad Banducci last week revealed COVID-driven absences had hit more than 20 per cent in distribution centres and more than 10 per cent in stores.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA chief executive Chris Rodwell said supply chain issues had been flagged months ago and business was working to resolve the woes.

“There’s no doubt that we expect that supplier arrangements will need to be looked at. There’s no doubt that there are several significant supply chain effects. We expect those to continue,” he said.

“We need to learn the lessons from the East Coast to ensure that WA businesses can best bear as we transition through having COVID inevitably come to our state.”

Perth shoppers may face empty shelves at supermarkets as supply chain woes hit from logistics staff either having COVID or having to isolate and panic buying takes hold. The west Australian
Camera IconPerth shoppers may face empty shelves at supermarkets as supply chain woes hit from logistics staff either having COVID or having to isolate and panic buying takes hold. The west Australian Credit: The west Australian/The West Australian

He said the peak business body had been working with thousands of companies ahead of WA’s February 5 reopening.

“WA is in a very similar position to the rest of the nation. We know that that skill shortage number at the moment in WA is somewhere around 55,000 and that that is the critical concern for WA businesses,” he said.

“We know that that skill shortage number at the moment in WA is somewhere around 55,000 and that that is the critical concern for WA businesses.

“We expect that as a result of this border opening up that in the immediate term, that those skill shortages may be exacerbated by over time.”

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