Nfld. & Labrador

Grocery store online order backlog continues during COVID-19 crisis

Many supermarkets are facing backlogs with online ordering, as government stresses the importance of staying home and leaving only for essential items during the COVID-19 crisis.

Colemans Grocery has received upwards of 400 online orders a day

Many grocery stores are backlogged with online orders. Colemans Grocery is getting 400 orders a day. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

Grocery stores are facing backlogs with online ordering as the provincial government stresses the importance of staying home and leaving only for essential items during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Many people have opted to have groceries delivered.

Greg Gill, vice-president of marketing with Colemans Grocery, said his company is working to scale up to meet the demands of the public.

"We're just doing the best we can to try to offer customers the safest possible means to get their groceries," Gill told CBC Radio's On The Go. 

"It's obviously becoming a more popular option right now and we're happy to service as many customers as we can, but there are limitations to that, which is what's causing some of the backlog in some of those orders."

There are a lot of orders coming in and we have our hands full, there's no doubt about that.- Greg Gill

Gill said Colemans has received more than 400 orders in the past day, something that has become common for the company over the last several days.

Gill said the company had to shut down online orders temporarily to catch up to orders already in place. Upon reopening the service, Colemans has been facing its maximum amount of orders each day in the St. John's and Mount Pearl area.

"Right now we're out about four days from new orders that come in, and we're making adjustments to that and moving through that a little bit faster each day," he said.

"But there are a lot of orders coming in and we have our hands full, there's no doubt about that."

Colemans in Corner Brook was the first of its locations to set up a protective barrier between the cashier and the customer, to help prevent the potential spread of COVID-19. (Submitted by Greg Gill)

Meanwhile, Sobeys said its online delivery service is offered only in Québec and New Brunswick through its IGA banner, and in British Columbia through Thrifty Foods.

"In Newfoundland, our store teams are working around the clock to keep our communities fed," said the company in a statement. "We're hearing stories form our local store managers of community volunteers coming together to help those in isolation or seniors access the groceries they need when they can't visit our stores."

Loblaws, which operates Dominion grocery stores in Newfoundland and Labrador, does offer an online ordering service, which includes pickup or home delivery.

Mark Boudreau, Loblaw Atlantic's director of corporate affairs, says the chain's PC Express business has more than doubled in recent weeks as the numbers of Canadians shopping from home continues to spike.

"Wait times for online orders will vary between location depending on demand," said Boudreau. "We are doing our best to fulfil orders as quickly as possible, and we can assure you that our colleagues are working hard to continue to serve our communities."

Staying safe

Gill said there's a little bit of concern over getting the products Colemans Grocery needs to even sell them, but for right now, things are going OK.

He said conversations with their suppliers are still very positive. 

"We see stock-outs on a daily basis on certain items. But up to this point we've been able to backfill and replenish pretty quickly," Gill said.

Colemans was among one of the first businesses to implement safety measures for the public and its staff, as COVID-19 cases ramped up in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

The company installed glass barriers on its cash registers to keep staff and customers separated early on. It also has floor decals to remind customers of safe standing distances and has increased its sanitation measures, Gill said.

"It's a tough time, it's a stressful time, but we're getting feedback from the front line that they feel that we're doing everything we can to keep them safe," he said.

"They're the real heroes in all of this. Truthfully."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from On The Go