This weekend, an army of shoppers will mobilise, descending on stores across the country to begin "the big Christmas food shop". Lengthy queues can be expected as retailers follow social distancing guidelines. But measures are being put in place by most supermarkets to deal with the expected surge in demand.
Marks & Spencer
There is a new Book & Shop service at its 18 Irish stores, which allows customers to bypass the queues by pre-booking a timed slot online. Once you have booked and arrive at the appointed time, you can skip the queue and check in with a host at the entrance to the store.
The rollout follows trials at the M&S stores at Liffey Valley, Dublin; Navan and Douglas, Cork. "We know that queuing can be a concern, so our new Book & Shop service guarantees a shopping slot at a time that suits and removes the need to queue, should there be one. Designed by our in-house tech teams, we hope that Book & Shop will make shopping easier for our customers and continue to help them shop with confidence in our stores," says Ken Scully, country manager for M&S in Ireland.
There are lots of slots available all day, and well into the evening, for tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday. Things get trickier on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, with mixed availability for daytime slots, and on Christmas Eve the system is reserved for Christmas Food To Order collections. You can check availability and book at slot here.
Aldi announced this week that customers who live within the catchment area of Deliveroo in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway, can shop for a wide range of Christmas food items, and alcohol, on the website or app and have them delivered.
The chain is also offering priority access at all times for frontline workers, and for those who are more vulerable, between 11am and 1pm daily. Christmas opening hours have been extended to the following: December 18th and 19th, 9am-10pm; December 20th, 8am-10pm; December 21st, 22nd and 23rd, 8am-11pm; December 24th, 8am-7pm.
Lidl has introduced a WhatsApp chatbot, to help shoppers pick a less busy time to shop. "The messaging service allows shoppers to text in their preferred shopping time, which they will then receive a reply to, notifying them whether that particular day and time is busy, average or quiet. This tool is expected to be particularly useful in the run up to the busy Christmas period and customers can continue to check quiet times to shop at lidl.ie/quiet," a spokeswoman said.
Lidl also offers priority access to elderly and more vulnerable customers from 9am to 11am everyday, and will open from 7am every day until December 24th.
Dunnes Stores is offering a number of ways to shop without pushing a trolley around a busy store. You can use a free phone in and collect service, with orders taken between 8am and 4pm on a first come, first served basis, ready to collect before 6pm on the same day. You can check the relevent telephone number for your local store here.
You can also do your Dunnes Stores shop via the Buymie app, and have it delivered "in as little as an hour". Customers living within 10km on the flagship Cornelscourt branch can avail of free delivery (within four hours) on all orders with a value of €50 or more. Several other branches (see the list here) are also offering free delivery, within 5km, for orders placed by telephone.
A spokesman for SuperValu said: “As our stores are independently owned and operated, we do not have a queue booking system, but our stores have extended their opening hours; increased the capacity of our online shopping service to make more delivery slots available; and more stores have also rolled out click and collect options for people who prefer to collect their groceries, rather than come in store.”
Tesco is offering free delivery, to addresses covered by the tesco.ie delivery service, to anyone over 65 spending at least €50. Delivery slots are available Monday to Saturday, 3pm-7pm.
The supermarket chain is also extending its priority access to “older people, those who are medically vulnerable and family carers” making it available all day from December18th-24th. The concession is also available to healthcare workers, care workers and emergency services personnel.
The company says it has added “thousands of new delivery slots to our online shopping and click-and-collect services, as well as extending hours for these services”.