Online grocery delivery services seeing overload during Covid-19 crisis

By Sarah Livingston

The demand for online grocery shopping has skyrocketed during the Covid-19 pandemic, causing panic for customers who aren’t able to leave their homes and a logistical nightmare for supermarkets. If you’re one of the lucky ones who is able to get an order through without having the website crash, you’re looking at a potential two-week wait for it to arrive… or longer.

Delivery slot availability at Asda in Ayr (March 27)

In the months leading up to the pandemic, online grocery shopping was becoming a popular way to do a weekly shop. But the current rise in online shopping has put huge pressure on the industry, and some companies are struggling to cope with the sudden change.

Aaron Bayne has just started as a delivery driver at Morrisons in Kilmarnock. The store, which is currently in the middle of renovations, had been set to launch its delivery service in Ayrshire on Monday. “its really quite manic in our store now as we come up to Monday” he says.

“We were originally looking at around 5 to 6 deliveries per driver, per shift on launch. We’re now looking at 15 to 20.” -Aaron Bayne

In order to keep essential items in stock, retailers, such as Tesco, have put limits on how many of the same product customers are allowed to purchase. The number of overall items allowed in an order at Tesco is capped at 80.

Items limited to 3 at Tesco

Panic buying is forcing many other supermarkets to do the same. Aaron says that Morrisons’ management has to manage the impact it’s having on what products they have available, and that has knock-on effects for other aspects of the supermarket’s services and staff training.

“The management team in our store, they’re not just having to deal with the recruitment and the training of the home delivery team… they’re now having to deal with the mass of additional temporary staff that are being brought in to combat the panic buying that’s plaguing most of the supermarkets at the moment.” -Aaron Bayne

The new drivers at the Kilmarnock store would normally have hands-on training experience with other stores that have already implemented the delivery service. “Its not essential travel. So that is really an issue.” Aaron says. Because of that, some drivers aren’t able to get the training they would normally have ahead of the launch.

Grocery giants are feeling the pressure. As a result of the UK lockdown, even fewer people will be venturing out to buy their groceries. This is leading to long queues when logging onto retailers’s websites, with some retailers making online orders unavailable until they are able to catch up with the backlog of orders.

Asda delivery vans

Even Ocado, the online supermarket, wasn’t prepared for the sudden increase in orders. While they are allowing new users to register, they aren’t allowing them to place orders. So if you weren’t an Ocado user before the pandemic, you won’t be able to use their services.

Email from Ocado after registering

Sainsbury’s is doing the same. They’ve temporarily suspended new registrations to their online delivery service. Both Iceland and Co-op are taking a different approach and prioritizing those who are the most vulnerable. They don’t offer deliveries to those who aren’t vulnerable at this time.

If you’re looking to place an order, it’s best to check out all of the supermarkets in Ayr online. If you do have to make a trip out to the supermarket, new protection features are being implemented in many of them, including queues outside the store to limit the amount of shoppers inside and screens for cashiers.

For those who are the most vulnerable and the elderly, many supermarkets are offering designated shopping hours. Tesco’s priority hours are 9-10am Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the vulnerable, and 9-10am Tuesday and Thursday for NHS staff.

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