Supermarkets have had to make huge changes to the way they operate in recent months, due to the coronavirus and resulting lockdown. All of the chains have put special measures in place to help protect customers and staff, as well as tweaking their opening times and introducing new priority shopping slots for specific customers. However, as the lockdown eases, the rules are changing again for some brands.
When the pandemic first broke out, customers were seen stockpiling items and causing shelves to become empty as supermarkets struggled to keep up with demand.
The big brands including Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda made changes to their opening times and shopping rules in order to make sure stock didn’t run out, while also ensuring more vulnerable customers could get access to the food they needed.
This included introducing new priority shopping hours for elderly shoppers as well as key workers, to make sure those most in need were not struggling to buy essential items.
However, as the lockdown in the UK is eased further, supermarkets are making changes to get back to normal – including scrapping the priority slots.
Supermarkets have made changes to their opening times
Tesco has extended its opening times
Some supermarkets are extending their opening hours now that the lockdown rules are changing, giving customers more time to pick up their groceries.
Here’s how the rules have changed across the different supermarket chains, though you can check your local store’s opening hours on each of the brands’ websites.
Sainsbury’s has confirmed it no longer has exclusive opening times for specific groups such as the elderly or key workers – so customers can shop whenever they like.
However, while they won’t be getting their own shopping time slot, the groups will continue to get priority if there are queues to get in.
NHS workers and care workers will still have priority entry from 7:30am to 8am Monday to Saturday, and elderly, vulnerable and disabled customers will still have priority entry from 8am to 9am Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
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Asda is extending its opening hours after its restricted times in recent months, with some shops open from 7am to midnight again.
However, like Sainsbury’s, Asda has also scrapped its priority hours for vulnerable and key worker groups.
But the chain is taking a similar approach, offering priority to NHS staff and care workers so that they can skip the queues in bigger stores, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8am to 9am.
They can also still get priority on Sundays at 9am to 10am for browsing.
Frozen food store Iceland has also made changes to its exclusive shopping hours for vulnerable groups as things start to get back to normal.
The chain previously gave priority access to elderly and vulnerable shoppers in the first hour of opening, while the last hour of the day was reserved for NHS staff.
However, on its website, Iceland has now said that though the hours are still available if you need them in some stores, they’re no longer necessary: “We haven’t cancelled our priority hours for elderly people; these are still offered from 8am-9am in all The Food Warehouse stores, and at the discretion of our Iceland store managers where sufficient local demand exists,” the statement read.
“In some stores the priority period is no longer required as elderly and vulnerable customers have heeded the Government’s advice to stay at home, supplies have normalised and panic buying has subsided. This means that stores are better stocked throughout the day and there is no longer any particular advantage to customers in shopping first thing in the morning; they may well prefer to visit during the afternoon, when stores are usually quieter.”
Aldi has special opening times
Tesco has begun to extend its opening times across its different UK stores, with Express and Metro stores returning to their standard opening hours – typically from as early as 6am until 11pm or midnight.
However, despite the longer shopping hours, priority access will still be given to elderly and vulnerable shoppers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 9am until 10am, in all locations except its Express stores.
NHS workers also have priority hours every Tuesday and Thursday between 9am and 10am, plus browsing time one hour before stores open on Sundays – though again this option is not available in its Express stores.
However, NHS workers, care workers and those in the emergency services can also get priority access to stores with a valid ID.
Morrisons has made no changes to its special opening times, which allow NHS workers to shop from 6am-7am Monday-Saturday.
They also get a chance to browse shops before other customers for half an hour before they open on Sundays.
Aldi has kept its opening times the same despite the restrictions easing in the UK.
On its website, the supermarket states: “All day everyday key workers in the NHS, Police and Fire Service will take priority ahead of queues into our stores upon showing a valid ID. From Tuesday 14th April, we have extended our priority shopping time for emergency workers which will now include all groups entitled to a Blue Light card. This includes all Social Care Workers, First Responders and St John’s Ambulance staff, amongst many others. This is in addition to early access on a Sunday, where they can enter stores 30 minutes prior to opening.
“We also open 30 minutes early Monday – Saturday for the Elderly (over 70) and vulnerable. Please note, in England and Wales, this is for browsing only. In Scotland, purchases can be made during this time.”
Waitrose has kept its priority shopping slots for certain customers, though some stores are operating with reduced opening times.
“The first opening hour in our supermarkets will be dedicated to our elderly and vulnerable shoppers. In addition, to help us keep our shelves stocked and our Partners and customers safe, some shops may close earlier than normal. This will vary in different parts of the country, from shop to shop,” its website confirmed.
Budget supermarket Lidl has not put any special hours in place for vulnerable customers.
On its website, the company explained: “Currently we are not implementing shopping hours for the elderly or NHS workers at stores in England, Scotland and Wales but we are continuing to explore all opportunities to best support the most vulnerable in our communities and those that care for them.”