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Coles Extends Opening Hours, Removes Community Shopping Hour As Stock Levels Near Normal

Coles stores around the country will be extending their opening hours to begin trading even earlier in the mornings as a large number of households continue working and learning from home.

The supermarket giant said the expanded trading hours will kick in from Friday, and will include nearly 200 stores, which will open from 6 am, where state laws allow.

Coles said the changes were brought in to help ease the pressure particularly felt by Australian families who are busy homeschooling and working from home.

Thursday will also mark the end of Coles' dedicated shopping hour for elderly and vulnerable members of the community, as well as emergency and health care workers.

Shoppers are seen waiting outside a Coles supermarket at Firle in Adelaide. Image: AAP

The dedicated 'Coles Community Hour' has been running for the last seven weeks and allowed those members of the community exclusive access to Coles stores in the first hour of trade between 7 am and 8 am.

Chief Operations Officer Matt Swindells said the decision to remove the popular Community Hour was made because demand for groceries and product availability were now returning to normal levels following weeks of panic-buying.

“The reason we started Coles Community Hour was because excess demand led to limited availability, which meant we had lots of people eager to get into stores early in the morning," Swindells said.

"Having a dedicated shopping hour for some of the most vulnerable members of the community, as well as those working on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic, was really beneficial."

“With supply almost back to normal for essential groceries, Coles is reopening this hour to all customers again as well as opening earlier where we can, to make shopping more convenient for everyone in the community.”

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Swindells said safety practices will still remain across stores including social distancing measures, such as limiting the number of people inside stores, clear protective screens at checkouts, and sanitising of trolleys and baskets.

It comes after the supermarket also reopened its Coles Online orders to all shoppers, after earlier being limited to elderly and vulnerable customers only during the peak of demand.

"We’ve doubled our capacity in Coles Online so there is now more opportunity than ever for customers to either have their groceries delivered to their homes or collect them at their convenience,” Swindells said.

Last week, Coles announced an unprecedented 13.1 percent spike in quarterly sales across its supermarket due to panic-buying in the early weeks of the pandemic.

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Coles said total supermarket sales revenue for the third quarter rose to $8.23 billion -- up 13.8 percent on the same time last year -- as shoppers stockpiled groceries in the face of looming COVID-19 restrictions.

Since the start of April, however, comparable sales growth has broadly trended back towards pre-COVID-19 levels.