I have written to you regularly over the past few weeks as we continue to change how we work in line with Government advice and in response to your feedback. Changes we've made already, including limiting the number of items customers can buy and creating priority shopping times for NHS workers and for elderly and vulnerable customers, are all working well.
I am writing today to tell you what we are doing to keep you and our colleagues safe in our stores and what we are doing to get food to those that need it the most.
Keeping you and our colleagues safe
Starting today, we will limit the number of people allowed in our stores and at our ATMs at any one time. We are putting queuing systems in place outside stores and will ask everyone to please queue at a safe distance of 2 metres apart. Since we put limits on the number of items people could buy, food and other essential items are on shelves for longer each day so please arrive throughout the day to avoid long queues forming in the morning. We will be reminding people in stores to keep a safe distance from other customers and from our colleagues. Customers buying petrol will be asked to pay at the pump where they can.
We are reducing the number of checkouts we open in supermarkets, convenience stores and petrol filling stations to help our colleagues and customers keep a safe distance from each other. We are also introducing safety screens at every manned checkout to help keep our colleagues safe when serving customers. We are regularly sanitising all customer areas of our stores including chip and pin machines, baskets and trolleys.
Please pay by card at the till if you can. If you are unable to pay by card and want to pay by cash, please use our self scan tills which will stay open for cash payments. Many customers are now using our SmartShop app on their own devices when shopping in our stores. This means you can scan your own shopping as you go round the store, put food and other essential items straight into your own bags and pay for your groceries at a special till before leaving. Which means less interaction with other customers and colleagues and less time queuing to pay.
Elderly and vulnerable customers
Many of you have written to me to tell me you are elderly or vulnerable and are struggling to book online delivery slots. We are doing our absolute best to offer online delivery slots to elderly, disabled and vulnerable customers. These customers have priority over all slots. Our customer Careline has been inundated with requests from elderly and vulnerable customers – we have had one year's worth of contacts in two weeks.
We have proactively contacted 270,000 customers who had already given us information that meant we could identify them as being in these groups. Our customer Careline is working at full capacity to help other customers within these groups and we are able to give an additional 8,000 customers a day access to delivery slots over the phone. We have already booked in slots for 115,000 elderly, disabled and vulnerable customers this week and this number is growing every day.
We will receive the government database this week which tells us which people in England the government considers to be most vulnerable. Where these people are already registered with us, we will start to write to them next week to offer them a delivery slot. We are also working hard to secure details for vulnerable people living in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
I apologise to our regular online customers, who I know are feeling very frustrated at not being able to book slots. Please bear with us and I hope you can understand why we feel the need to prioritise elderly and vulnerable customers at the moment.
Communities working together
And this brings me onto my final request. We really are doing our best to manage a very difficult situation. Demand for online grocery delivery is higher now than it has ever been. We are working hard to increase our online capacity and we are adding more slots in every day. But it is not possible for us to create enough slots to meet the current level of demand.
We are seeing communities come together to work on this issue. We know that many people who are able to come into a store to shop are also shopping for others who can't access food online or get to a shop. We want to encourage and support this. If everyone who shops in store also shops for a person who is less able, it will go a long way towards getting food to everyone who needs it.
Our teams are also working with national and local government and a range of charities to see how we can best help food banks and other community groups. I'll update you soon on what we are doing in this area.
Lastly - thank you for all the support that you are giving our colleagues. As we do everything we can to feed the nation, your kind comments make a huge difference.