TAMESIDE’S three MPs have written to all major supermarket chains to urge them to remove delivery charges for shoppers who have been advised to shield by the Government.
Angela Rayner, Jonathan Reynolds and Andrew Gwynne made the request after receiving phonecalls, emails and letters from some of their most vulnerable constituents expressing concern over the price of having their shopping delivered to their homes.
The Government has now extended the shielding period until March 31.
In their letter, the MPs offered their heartfelt thanks for the incredible efforts of supermarket staff to keep shoppers safe as the fight continues to get the virus under control, saying “Your staff are highly valued key workers and as MPs representing Ashton, Stalybridge and Hyde and Denton and Reddish, we want you to know that we are incredibly proud of them.”
The letter goes on to say that all three MPs have been contacted by vulnerable constituents who face the dilemma of worrying about the cost of having their shopping delivered but who have no alternative due to the shielding guidelines which tell them they must not leave the house.
It said: “When the first lockdown was announced in March 2020, some supermarkets removed delivery charges for customers who had been told to shield. This was a fantastic scheme, and we know it was a huge relief to some of our most vulnerable residents.”
The free delivery scheme ended in October as restrictions began to lift and some shoppers were charged as much as £6 to receive their groceries.
The letter continued: “Those that fall into the shielding category are often seriously ill, disabled or have an underlying health condition with many relying on benefits or pensions as their income.
“A £6 delivery charge makes a huge difference to their shopping bill and it is money that they may have to find by reducing another bill, such as gas or electricity.
“We are appealing to you to alleviate one of the concerns endured by those shielding and reinstate free delivery for this vulnerable group. It would mean so much to them to have this worry removed.”
Here is a summary of the responses received by the MPs from the supermarkets.
Prior to the Covid-19 crisis we saw higher demand at certain times of the week, and so we offered a peak and off-peak pricing model, with slots costing up to £7. Demand is now constant across the whole week as we are consistently operating close to full capacity, and so we are moving to a simpler pricing structure with a flat rate that better reflects the cost of picking, packing and delivering orders. All delivery slots now priced at £4.50. This fairer structure means that no customers will have to pay the highest slot price as a result of demand.
Customers who have signed up for our Delivery Saver subscription service will continue to benefit from free deliveries and collections as part of their plan and click and collect slots will continue to be priced at £1.50.
Since the start of this crisis, we have put our most vulnerable customers first and ensured they are able to access priority delivery slots. We are now supporting 600,000 vulnerable customers with priority access to slots and this will remain the case following these price changes. Previously we were subsidising delivery slots for vulnerable customers, but these changes will bring prices into line with all other customers. Vulnerable customers will continue to benefit from having priority when booking slots and the overall number of priority slots will not change.
Although free delivery was not a requirement during the first lockdown, I am pleased to say we were able to offer more than 2.6 million slots free of charge between March and October to Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) customers – and we were the only supermarket to do so. We have continued to support these customers since the start of the pandemic, including giving them priority access to delivery slots in advance of other customers.
We needed to introduced delivery fees, in line with all other customers, in order to continue to provide a sustainable service, with slots starting from as little as £1. We also continue to offer a free, contactless Click & Collect service for those who wish to take advantage of this.
Throughout the pandemic our highest priority has been keeping our customers and colleagues as safe as possible, including providing access to delivery slots for those registered as CEV. This includes the provision of a priority pass to support CEV customers who are still required to shield at home.
To date we have taken the following steps to support CEV customers:
- Allocated priority passes to book a home delivery slot up to three weeks in advance, giving priority access to slots ahead of other customers.
- The opportunity to book a recurring slot if they wish to guarantee a regular delivery on a set day and time, for further peace of mind.
- Communicated in October that we would extend the Priority Pass until 31st March 2021 – regardless of any subsequent requirement to shield.
- Between March and October 2020 delivered more than 2.6million orders free of charge, and we were the only supermarket to do so.
- We have increased the number of weekly slots available from 450,000 in March 2019, to more than 850,000 at present and we expect capacity to increase to 900,000 slots per week by the start of April.
- Launched a Volunteer Shopper card, for those with relatives able to shop in stores, offering an additional way to pay for shopping without the use of a debit card.
Our response at every step of the way through the ongoing impact that the pandemic has had has been shaped by our unwavering commitment to the communities we serve.
We are, however, primarily a convenience retailer and therefore we only have a small-scale delivery operation. This does not currently cover the whole country and only operates out of a few cities. That has meant that we have not been in a position to receive the details of those citizens in need of prioritisation for home delivery as a result of the fact they are shielding, and unfortunately we are therefore unable to waive delivery charges in this event.
We have, however, been working hard to make online delivery available to more of our members and customers, because we realise what a valuable service this is. Where we offer a direct home delivery service, the delivery fee ranges from £0.99-£1.99; and where we deliver via the Deliveroo platform, delivery fees range from £0.49-£4.99 with free delivery available in some locations for orders over £15.
Furthermore, in some of our stores we offer a free click and collect service; and in over 200 of our larger stores we offer a free delivery service for those customers who have completed their shop in store and need help to get their groceries to their front door. The easiest way for your constituents to explore which home delivery service we are able to offer in their area is via our website – www.coop.co.uk/ways-to-shop/home-delivery.
I can completely understand the concern and difficulties faced by many, particularly within the current climate. The delivery charge policy put in place by Iceland has remained the same throughout the initial lockdown period and onward, as for orders £25 and over delivery is charged at £2, whilst orders £35 and over have free delivery.
During this challenging time, Aldi recognises that businesses should take responsibility in helping those most vulnerable in our society. However, unlike other supermarkets, Aldi does not offer a standard delivery service so are unfortunately not in the position to remove delivery charges as the letter requests.
In light of the pandemic and in an effort to support those customers who are unable to visit a store, Aldi introduced a new click and collect service last year. Shoppers can choose from a full range of grocery items online, then drive to their local store where their shopping is brought to their car by Aldi colleagues contact-free, in line with social distancing rules.
Unfortunately, the click and collect service is not yet available in all stores. Customers can see what stores offer the service by visiting https://groceries.aldi.co.uk/en-GB/Grocery-Click-and-Collect
During the pandemic we have worked hard to support vulnerable and shielding customers in our local communities. We are aware that many are unable to visit our stores and in response we increased the number of online delivery slots and created a new process of priority slots.
We developed the Doorstep Delivery service primarily to support customers who are self-isolating, elderly or vulnerable, unfamiliar with shopping online and not able to visit a shop. Constituents call our dedicated team on 0345 611 6111 and section option 5 to place their order which is picked at their local store and delivered directly from the store, the next day, with payment taken at the doorstep. There is no minimum spend for this service and delivery is free for vulnerable and elderly customers.
For those who prefer to use our online service, we provide priority slots for those customers in shielded groups. Our online service offers delivery slots from £2.50, the fee dependent on the time and day chosen for the delivery. These charges apply to customers who are using this service on an ad hoc basis.
Customers who intend to use the service regularly may purchase a delivery pass which significantly reduces the cost. For example, a customer using an annual midweek pass (£35 for deliveries Tue-Thu) would pay 67p per slot if they place an order for delivery each week. Our other option of paying monthly for deliveries, at £5 per month, would work out at £1.25 per weekly order.
Marks and Spencer
M&S has a joint venture with Ocado Retail which means customers can shop for M&S groceries through the Ocado website however we do not have our own online grocery business.
We have also focused on introducing new solutions to help maintain social distancing in our store, whilst minimising queues for customers. Our Sparks Book & Shop service is now available across all M&S stores and allows customers to book a time slot to shop in store without having to queue. This service also complements our previous dedicated shopping hours, and instead offers potentially vulnerable customers the flexibility to book a shopping slot at a time of day that is most convenient for them. The service can be accessed online, but for those who may not have access to a computer, they can also call our customer service team or speak to one of our colleagues in store to book a slot for the next time they would like to shop with us.
At Ocado Retail, we cross-reference the list of Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) people that we receive from DEFRA to ensure that we support as many of our customers as possible. The list that we receive is an edited version of the Government Shield List; those on it are those that have confirmed that they need essential supplies. Once these customers have been identified, we ensure that they are given good visibility to book slots several days (currently 21 days) in advance. We repeat this process weekly.
Our delivery charges range from £0-£6.99 depending on a number of different factors, including whether the customer is a SmartPass holder, the size of the delivery, the time of day and the time of week for the delivery. As our CEV customers have good advance visibility of delivery slots, they have a wide choice over when they will have their orders delivered and how much, if anything, they pay for delivery.
Our customer hub (our customer contact centre) has access to the customers that we have matched to the government list, so they are able to help customers understand if they are on the list, and how to be added to it if needed.