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Grocery delivery services buckle in Gauteng as demand spikes

Sixty60 and Bottles are at capacity, and it’s not just the flood of orders that’s the problem.
With delivery app orders fulfilled at store level, stock shortages in stores will impact on orders. Image: Supplied

Panic-buying across neighbourhoods in Gauteng has seen popular grocery delivery services such as Checkers Sixty60 and Bottles by Pick n Pay buckle under the load.

Orders for both services were still being picked and processed at stores throughout Wednesday, which suggests that they were overwhelmed with orders early in the morning (or late on Tuesday night).

One may be tempted to describe this as a “rich people problem”, but given the predictability of these services, their low cost, and their convenience, they have become incredibly popular across the country.

To some, who may be confined to their homes due to isolating or other medical reasons, or who unable to get to a store, these delivery services are a lifeline.

Read: Checkers Sixty60 vs Woolies Dash vs PnP Bottles

Following Sixty60’s modest launch in November 2019, the service has been aggressively rolled out. Ahead of this week’s unrest, the service was available from over 150 stores across the country.

Industry sources suggested a month or two ago that Sixty60 was delivering 10 000 orders a day.

Well before lunchtime on Wednesday, Sixty60 displayed a ‘Currently closed’ message for multiple addresses checked in the broader Johannesburg area.

Image: Moneyweb

In areas affected by unrest and looting (and those nearby), the service displays a message saying it is ‘Temporarily Closed’.

Image: Moneyweb

In a message to some customers, Checkers said: “Johannesburg stores have reached capacity and orders will only be delivered tomorrow.”

Errors and failures on Pick n Pay’s Bottles app are less graceful, with conflicting messages.

Some delivery slots appeared to be available on Wednesday afternoon across much of Joburg.

Its online shopping site was however having problems with some orders for delivery in Johannesburg proceeding to checkout. It is not clear whether this was affecting shoppers broadly or only in specific areas. Its Click and Collect service had slots available for Friday at Johannesburg stores.

Woolworths’s online grocery delivery service provided the next available timeslot in one Johannesburg suburb as Monday (July 19). In some Gauteng areas tested, though, this is as far out as Saturday (July 24).

It says “Customers in affected areas will, unfortunately, find that:

  • Fewer home delivery slots are available;
  • Fewer Click & Collect timeslots are available; [and]
  • Some fashion, beauty and homeware orders may be delayed.”

One Cart, which is an independent provider that picks and fulfils orders at partner stores (including some Pick n Pays), has also been swamped by demand. At lunchtime on Wednesday, its next delivery timeslot in the Sandton area was Thursday morning.

Dis-Chem suspended its on-demand DeliverD service in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal earlier this week.

It’s not all about panic-buying

The problem is not just excessive demand, however.

Staffing levels at stores have been affected. Some employees have not been able to travel to work safely. This affects operations throughout the store, with fewer staff available to fill cashier posts, restock shelves and pick delivery orders.

In some instances that Moneyweb is aware of, staff from stores affected by looting have been seconded to other stores that are trading. This appears to be the exception, with most stores trading with noticeably fewer staff. Woolworths has notices at some stores apologising for inconvenience or for some services not being available due to lower staffing levels.

Couple this with far higher demand than normal – as shoppers attempt to stock up with the prospect of food shortages looming – and supermarket retail operations are very stretched.

Logistics

The supply chain in Gauteng has not anticipated this spike and shelves are beginning to empty out on a daily basis, much like the situation at the start of the inital Covid-19 lockdown last year.

This is particularly pronounced in smaller convenience stores that don’t keep a large amount of replacement stock on hand. This is not yet the result of the disruption to the vital N3 link with Durban, although those risks are real if the route remains closed for much longer.

This sharp spike in buying across the province means the fulfilment part of the equation with apps like Sixty60 and Bottles becomes an increasing challenge.

The decentralised distribution model that these apps are built on, where orders are fulfilled at store level, means that stock shortages in stores will impact on orders.

This means orders could be placed but the items won’t arrive as even replacements may not be available.

It will take some time for the overall panic buying situation to normalise, and one source in the sector says retailers are entirely focused on keeping their doors open, their shelves stocked and employees safe.

The damage to the local supply chain in the short term will take some time to fix, but there remain huge unanswered questions about what the damage the unrest and seemingly targeted looting and destruction of large warehouses in Durban will mean for supply beyond the next few weeks.

Read: Durban port suffers major disruption over violence

In urban KwaZulu-Natal, there are no grocery deliveries at all.

Most national chain stores that have not been looted are shut.

Very few stores are selling essential goods, and those that are will be selling their stock with no prospect of much of it being replenished soon.

 

COMMENTS   13

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On the south coast we have a different problem. The mighty SAPS shut all the shops and so they are fully stocked — Probably for the looters to empty but honest citizens cannot buy food !!
I guess this is to have equal deprivation by all !!!
Amandla ne !!!!

Unfortunately whether we like it or not we cannot blame the government. They are-and have repeatedly been, legally and fairly elected.

South Africans must look long and hard in the mirror and ask:
a) We voted for this despite knowing that the ANC lacked substance, capability and integrity
b) are we a nation of thieves-this looting is wholesale and not isolated-thousands have been arrested and probably 10 times more have stolen or benefitted from the theft, plunder and destruction.

One gets countries that are winners…and those that are losers. The Economist labelled the entire continent hopeless in 1999-were they incorrect?

Correct. SA doesn’t have an ANC problem, it has a voter problem. We don’t need better politicians, we need a better electorate; one who can comprehend the connection between their lot in life and their power to vote.

If you study the African culture verses the Western culture this, unfortunately will be very difficult to change.

But what are the alternatives for a poor Black voter in a township or rural village which would do better than the ANC? This isn’t being sarcastic.

For such a voter the DA simply does not apply. It is still largely seen as a white-dominated party with middle class and business interests at heart. Whatever momentum they gained in reversing this image ended when Musi left. The past few years have been a very trying time for the DA politically.

So who is left? The EFF? Zulu Nationalists IFP? The personality cult of an Aunty with little relevance outside of the Cape? ANC-outcasts COPE? The God-blessed ACDP? The alternatives are hardly inspiring.

This is the exact reason why a qualified vote is the only way to have a say.
Unfortunately, the 1-man-1-vote approach is totally dysfunctional as we can see.
Do not throw away the continent yet as there is the occasional sparkle in the desert.

Hungry, Covid infested, burning, divided and dirt poor with now less hope of an economic recovery.

The Rainbow Nation, and Mr Mandelas vision lies literally in tatters, broken, burning, bankrupt and bereft of a future.

“Tsamina mina, eh eh
Waka waka, eh eh
Tsamina mina zangalewa
This time for Africa”

Time for Africa indeed…

My same reply from yesterdays article is:

what upset me most is that even if the looting could be stopped right now – not 1% of the actual looters and the orgastrators thereof (especially those that express themselves as pro looting and demolishing) will be held accountable for the direct and indirect damage done / cause of permanent job losses etc and land in jail – till today the unorganized / dysfunctional anc government does not understand that it can not be looting / arson / demolishing today and with the press of a few buttons the following day its back to normal and all is hunky dory – the long term damage (estimated between R10 and R20 billion by the experts) with a severe negative effect is done and will be felt by everyone except useless government employees who ride on the back of the taxpayer – how can anyone pay tax with a smile if this is the quality of government service /performance one get in return therefor???? – on top of it sars advert says proudly “at your service” – what service are they talking about??????????????

Looting and rioting over grievances has become normalised as there is no response from government to actually quite basic problems. This is a monumental failure on governments part. They should actually all resign and call a general election.

Within days millions of people from all communities will be hungry or starving.
I can’t see the government proactively arranging food distribution to the regions damaged by the looters.
What happens then ?

I guess it’s time to pack for Pyongyang?

Whenever a government fails you always see pictures of the empty shelves. In fact, empty shelves should be the logo of socialism.

End of comments.

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