CORONAVIRUS #LOCKDOWN

Grocery delivery will still operate – but demand is sky-high

By Rebecca Davis 27 March 2020

Retailers have warned customers that they are not able to deliver any products during lockdown which do not fall within the government’s list of essential goods. (Photo: REUTERS / Siphiwe Sibeko) A man (L) walks past a branch of South African retailer Pick n Pay in Johannesburg October 20, 2010. South Africa's second-largest food retailer Pick n Pay plans to step up its expansion across the continent to fend off competition as U.S. retailer Wal-Mart prepares to enter fast-growing Africa. Wal-Mart is in talks to buy South Africa's discount retailer Massmart, a move that would give the U.S. firm a big presence in Africa and pressure local players. Pick n Pay posted a 7 percent decline in first-half profit on Wednesday, and said it plans four new stores in neighbouring Zambia over the next 12 months. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: BUSINESS FOOD) - RTXTN4N

South Africa’s major retailers have clarified that in terms of the government’s lockdown regulations, they are still permitted to offer home delivery of groceries and other essential items. But demand is so high that they are scrambling to increase capacity.

Online grocery ordering may seem like a middle-class luxury, but it also provides a vital service for people with disabilities and others for whom leaving the house is difficult.

Most of South Africa’s major retailers are still offering home delivery of groceries and other essential items during lockdown, but the demand is already so high that in many cases the first available delivery slots fall beyond the lockdown period.

A statement from Pick ‘n Pay says: “We are working together with our delivery partners to increase the number of slots we have available, so that you can get your order as quickly as possible”.

The same message has been put out by Woolworths, which states: “We will be processing all orders in the system, and any new orders where slots are available. We are aware that slots are extremely full, we are working round the clock to increase capacity”.

Retailers have warned customers that they are not able to deliver any products during lockdown which do not fall within the government’s list of essential goods. They can only deliver products which are also allowed to be physically sold at stores during this period.

The products which are permitted to be sold are food products, household cleaning products, personal protective equipment and medical and hospital supplies.

Food products include feed for animals. Toiletries like toilet paper, sanitary pads and tampons, soap and hand sanitiser can be sold. It is not yet clear whether other basic household supplies like lightbulbs or batteries will be available.

As has now been widely publicised, alcohol is not permitted to be sold anywhere during the lockdown. As Department of Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel stated on Wednesday that cigarettes are not considered essential items, it seems that the sale of tobacco products may also be prohibited.

Electronic equipment and anything related to home entertainment will not be available for purchase.

Takealot, which offers a wide range of goods for sale, on Thursday took its payment system offline temporarily in order to meet the restrictions of what can still be delivered.

The e-commerce merchant stated:

“Takealot.com will remain open during lockdown to safely deliver essential goods as directed by the South African government. We have temporarily disabled payment methods for all goods while we reconfigure our platform to remove the ability to purchase non-essentials. We will be open soon.”

E-hailing service Uber, meanwhile, told Daily Maverick that they are investigating whether drivers could be used to deliver groceries and basic goods.

“We will be working hard to understand how we can service the communities needs, and we are hopeful at the possibility that essential goods could be delivered using the Uber Eats app,” an Uber spokesperson said.

“This will enable businesses and couriers to continue to have an avenue to generate income and lessen the burden on the solidarity fund during this 21-day lock-down period.”

It has been confirmed that the delivery of cooked food from restaurants will be prohibited, meaning that neither UberEats nor services like Mr D will be able to continue delivering takeaways during this period.

The normal Uber driver service will still be available during lockdown, but only to transport passengers who work in essential services, or need to obtain basic goods, seek medical attention, attend funerals or receive grant payments.

The service will also only be available between 5am and 9am, and again from 4pm to 8pm. A normally sized passenger Uber will only be allowed to transport one passenger. Uber XLs can transport two passengers, and UberVans can take three.

Delivery services have instituted various policies to try to make the process as safe as possible for couriers and consumers.

Pick ‘n Pay states:

“We have now implemented no-contact deliveries. When our drivers arrive at your address, they will ring the bell, and stand back. Once you answer the door, your order will be conveniently placed at a safe distance. The driver will then record your name, with the date and time of service in front of you, so you won’t need to sign any paperwork. The driver will depart with no direct contact.”

In other countries with lockdown conditions, consumers have been asked to be extremely considerate of couriers, who are at high risk of exposure to coronavirus because they are travelling between multiple sites and coming into contact with many people.

Consumers are asked not to demand that couriers enter their home to carry in deliveries, to be forgiving of errors at what is an extremely high-stress time, and to consider tipping generously.

After consumers have unpacked goods, they are also advised to wash or sanitise their hands thoroughly. DM

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