Geraldton shoppers may have to wait ‘couple of months’ to see shelves re-stocked

Phoebe Pin & Kate CampbellGeraldton Guardian
A cargo ship arriving at Fremantle Port with vital food supplies for WA Woolworths stores.
Camera IconA cargo ship arriving at Fremantle Port with vital food supplies for WA Woolworths stores. Credit: Woolworths/Woolworths

Groceries and products arriving on ships, trucks and trains have started to be delivered across WA to refill supermarket shelves, but it could be a “couple of months” before stock levels across Geraldton return to normal.

The Trans-Australian Railway was damaged by flooding in mid-January, blocking freight from getting into WA via rail from South Australia and the Northern Territory.

Around the same time, panic buying started to seep back into the shopping psyche as WA braced for its inevitable Omicron outbreak.

Mid West stores did not initially appear to be as adversely affected by the incident as Perth supermarkets, but there are now gaps on local shelves which have yet to be filled.

Rigters Supermarket Group operations manager Stuart Bain said stock levels were “the lowest it’s been” but they were starting to see improvements and expected shelves to look better in the next two to four weeks.

But he believed it would be a “couple of months away” before stock levels returned to normal.

Mr Bain said although there were many gaps, there was usually a second option in most areas and urged people to just “buy what you need” and be flexible with their product choices.

He said for their chain of IGA supermarkets, refilling dairy stocks had been the biggest challenge but staff were working seven days a week to get stock on shelves as soon as it arrived.

Mr Bain said generally customers had understood the reasons for the stock shortages and been patient, with staff trying to help customers with special dietary needs as much as possible.

“Some people get quite frustrated ... a few people don’t understand the scale of it, they just tell us to order more, which doesn’t help,” he said.

Woolworths shoppers rejoiced when images of more than 1000 pallets of grocery lines — including cereals, pantry essentials, toilet paper, and cleaning supplies — arrived in Perth on Saturday.

There will be two more waves of coastal shipping set to reach Fremantle this week and early March.

Trucks have also delivered almost 5000 pallets of ambient, chiller and freezer products into WA distribution centres.

Shelves in Coles Northgate were barer than usual on February 22.
Camera IconShelves in Coles Northgate were barer than usual on February 22. Credit: Jake Dietsch/Geraldton Guardian

The goods have been transported to supermarkets —including 26 in regional WA — this week, but a Woolworths spokesperson said it could be another month before Geraldton shelves return to normal.

“Supply will improve every week, but we expect it will take four to six weeks for stock levels to return to normal levels,” they said.

“We’re prioritising essential items as we work to get supply back to normal levels.

“We thank our customers for their patience and ask that they continue to only buy what they need.”

A Coles spokesperson said work continued on restoring stock levels at the Geraldton store in Northgate Shopping Centre, but they could not confirm how long the shortages would last.

“To address stock shortages we have been tripling the amount of freight delivered by road, shipping hundreds of containers loaded with stock via sea freight from Sydney and Melbourne, and utilising as much rail capacity available to us,” they said.

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