Big changes to Woolies supermarkets

 

EXCLUSIVE

Several changes have been introduced at Woolworths stores across the country as the nation gears up for a shopping frenzy before Christmas.

The supermarket behemoth's newly appointed chief medical officer Rob McCartney has been given the mammoth task of protecting Woolworths shoppers and staff from COVID-19.

Speaking to NCA NewsWire, he said ramping up tools that help consumers avoid busy periods and find their items in-store was key.

"One of the big things we've done, which is going to make a big difference, is that there are now a lot of resources on the app which show people how they can get through this busy time safely," he said.

One of these resources is a Q-Tracker tool available online or through the Woolworths app that uses real-time data to show the length of queues inside stores so shoppers can avoid peak times, making socially distancing possible.

There is also a feature on the app that helps customers find items by allowing them to build lists before revealing which aisle each item is in.

Signs have encouraged shoppers to social distance for months, and hand sanitiser stations have been set up in stores.

Woolworths chief medical officer Dr Rob McCartney outlines changes implemented ahead of Christmas. Picture: Steve Ryan/Woolworths/NCA NewsWire
Woolworths chief medical officer Dr Rob McCartney outlines changes implemented ahead of Christmas. Picture: Steve Ryan/Woolworths/NCA NewsWire

A trial is also under way for a "car wash for trolleys" which would speed up the cleaning process, Dr McCartney said.

The car wash allows for up to 10 trolleys at a time to be pushed through a stand-alone unit while sprayed with a disinfectant.

"At the moment we use well-trained and protected team members to clean and disinfect the trolleys," he said.

"But that can take a lot of the time away from customers.

"If we get this right we'll be able to do it much quicker and much more effectively."

The trial is under way at the Woolworths store in Kellyville, in Sydney's northwest, and if successful it will be rolled out at several stores across NSW, Victoria and Queensland.

"All of that combined … we're at the real cutting edge of best practice when it comes to minimising risk to our team members and to our customers," Dr McCartney said.

It hasn't all been smooth sailing though.

Dr McCartney confessed there had been challenges along the way, mainly involving border closures and most recently South Australia's COVID outbreak.

Changes include implementing an app that helps customers avoid busy periods. Picture: Steve Ryan / Woolworths / NCA NewsWire
Changes include implementing an app that helps customers avoid busy periods. Picture: Steve Ryan / Woolworths / NCA NewsWire

"The COVID-19 pandemic is new of course, so it's not like I can go to a textbook or (previously existing) regulations or codes of practice," he said.

"We're all trying to work on this process from a position of never having had to deal with it before."

He said Woolworths had worked closely with federal and state governments, which also posed a challenge given all jurisdictions had different rules and regulations.

The unpredictability of the virus also has Dr McCartney on his toes.

"As the chief medical officer I really have to keep across all of the evidence from around the globe in order to be able to provide health-related advice and expertise for general management, but also crisis management," he said.

"When we had our recent challenge in South Australia we needed to respond immediately to that.

"Historically, health, and even safety hasn't been that urgent. So that's been a real eye-opener for organisations."

Originally published as Big changes to Woolies supermarkets


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