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Cairns locals desperate for deliveries as Coles supermarket trucks sit idle

Online delivery trucks remain stationary at Coles supermarkets across Cairns as residents are forced to ignore isolation advice and visit multiple stores for their necessities.

Both the major supermarkets suspended online and click and collect services in mid-March as the coronavirus crisis began to escalate.

Woolworths has now been delivering to priority customers for more than a week, however Coles trucks are yet to move, despite an announcement six days ago that it was taking registrations for the most vulnerable.

It’s a sign that deliveries to the wider community won’t be opening anytime soon.

“To focus on delivering food and grocery essentials to vulnerable members of the community, we are currently working on a Coles Online Priority Service (COPS),” a Coles spokesperson told Tropic Now.

“When this service is launched shortly, individuals and organisations will be able to log on and seek to be placed on the priority list for Coles Online orders.”

Those deemed eligible for the Woolworths deliveries have told Tropic Now the service has been efficient, however many items are out of stock.

Treens Mac, who recently returned from overseas, said she’s had a good experience.

“I applied for priority assistance at Woolworths Smithfield, was approved 24 hrs later, submitted my order of 20 items, three were not available, delivered one day later,” she said.

“Worked pretty well for me.”

Steve Chan reported a more frustrating shop.

“Woolworths have stripped a huge amount of products out of the catalogue and most essentials are either low stock or unavailable,” he said.

While he may just have to make do, other Cairns residents are running the gauntlet to get the bare essentials.

Tara Chang is a single mother of three who is also shopping for her elderly grandmother.

“My pay comes in on Saturdays and by the time I go shopping there is absolutely no toilet paper or tissues,” she told Tropic Now.

“It’s crazy not to have toilet paper for two weeks.

“I had to drive to multiple shops to find one packet of toilet paper.

“Normally I buy six UHT milks, now it’s restricted to two which means we run out quickly and I have to risk it by going to the shops more frequently.”

“I’ve spoken to dozens of essential workers and by the time they finish work the shelves are absolutely gutted in the shopping centres.”

Why are Cairns supermarkets still struggling with supplies?

Both manufacturers and supermarkets are still working to fill the backlog, after weeks of unprecedented demand.

A Woolworths spokesman told Tropic Now it’s a slow process.

“While product availability is getting better and better each day, we still have more work to do,” he said.

“Pleasingly, demand moderated over the weekend and customers are respecting the limits we’ve put in place.

“Our teams and suppliers continue to work round the clock to replenish stock levels across our stores.”

From tomorrow, Woolworths at Earlville will reduce its customer shopping hours to focus more on its online deliveries for priority customers.

A customer letter says hours will be reduced from 8am-8pm to 9am-6pm daily.

"Outside these hours, the store will be operating as a Priority Delivery Hub," it reads.

"This important change will help us provide extra home deliveries to the elderly, people with disability, those with compromised immunity and people in mandatory isolation

"So that our team can fulfil more orders for these most vulnerable customers, products from the deli, in-store bakery and meat and seafood counters will no longer be available for delivery orders."

Local options open up

There are still plenty of local options available for meat, seafood, bread, fruit and vegetables and deli products, as outlined in Tropic Now’s local food buyers guide.

Many are now delivering. 

Those who deliver fruit and vege boxes are doing a roaring trade, while Rusty’s markets also remains open.

“I get my produce from Rusty's and also support the small restaurant and food outlets by getting takeaway meals during the week now,” Kathryn Hamilton told Tropic Now.

“It is very important to frequent our small traders who are our community.”

There’s a whole host of take away and delivery meal options from the best local restaurants and cafes.

Even demand for hand sanitiser is now being met by local distillers, such as Wolf Lane Distillery and FNQ Spirits