updated 3rd April 2020
As the challenges of food shopping have increased amid the uncertainty around Covid-19, several UK supermarket chains have prioritised opening at certain times of the day for vulnerable and elderly people.
On the Sight Advice FAQ website, a resource for blind and partially sighted people supported by RNIB, there is a range of useful information on a variety of subjects including how to arrange shopping deliveries and how to get essential food supplies if you are struggling financially.
Your shopping environment may be changing
If you are blind or partially sighted and are needing to go to a local supermarket for your essential shopping, please be aware that stores across the country and putting measures in place to protect us all. So, it’s important that you are aware that you may find changes to the environment you are usually used to. These measures could include the following:
- Temporary barriers
- Store reconfiguration (especially near checkouts)
- Floor markings for social distancing
- Perspex screens protecting check-out staff
- Requests for contactless payment methods.
These measures will differ from store to store and may change over time.
Hidden Disability Lanyard
If you have a disability that may not be immediately obvious but would appreciate support from staff when you’re doing your shopping, you may be interested to know there is a lanyard which can signal this. The sunflower lanyard is currently recognised in Tesco, Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury’s. Find out more about the lanyard and how you can get one.
A number of supermarkets and retailers started trialling the lanyard in 2018. In September 2019, M&S become the first UK retailer to introduce sunflower lanyards into all of its stores. They were followed by Sainsbury’s and Argos, who announced the nationwide rollout of sunflower lanyards in all their stores in October. In December 2019, Tesco also announced that they would begin providing sunflower lanyards at all of its stores.
Supermarket Opening Times, Links and Info
Advice: Even where no special exceptions are advertised, please add in the notes section of your order that you are a blind or partially sighted customer
To check your local store, visit: aldi.co.uk
Asda has placed limits on the amounts of certain products individual shoppers can buy.
Asda has revealed it is closing its 24 hour stores between 12am and 6am on a temporary basis. The supermarket will also be prioritising NHS workers in larger stores every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8am to 9am.
To check your local store’s opening hours, visit: storelocator.asda.com
All of its stores have a dedicated shopping hour for those at higher risk and the people who care for them.
Co-op announced that it will be offering priority shopping to the vulnerable and those who care for them from Monday to Saturday 8 am – 9 am and Sunday 10 am – 11 am.
To check opening hours for your local store, visit: finder.coop.co.uk/food
Co-op is restricting purchases to two per customer on some products, including hand sanitiser, soap, tinned goods, pasta, rice, long-life milk, sugar, baby food and nappies.
Iceland will open its supermarkets early for elderly customers to visit before stores open to the public.
Each day, elderly shoppers can now visit between 8 am – 9 am to get their shopping first. The final hour of trading Monday to Saturday will also be for NHS staff only.
To check local store’s opening times, visit iceland.co.uk.
The supermarket is opening an hour earlier than usual in order to let elderly customers do their shopping.
To check the opening times of your local Lidl, visit: lidl.co.uk/about-us/store-finder-opening-hours
Marks and Spencer
It has set aside the first hour of trading on Mondays and Thursdays for older and vulnerable customers.
M&S has announced that it will give the first hour of every Tuesday and Friday morning to NHS and emergency service workers.
To check opening hours for your local store, visit: marksandspencer.com/
Morrisons is expanding its home delivery service and introducing new ways of delivering groceries and more slots for customers, which will also help vulnerable people and those affected by the virus.
The supermarket has introduced an NHS hour at all of their stores every day, Monday to Saturday from 7 am to 8 am.
To check opening hours for your local store, visit groceries.morrisons.com
Although opening times haven’t changed, different Nisa stores are offering help to the elderly and vulnerable, by offering extended services to customers, including free deliveries.
To check opening hours for your local store, visit: nisalocally.co.uk/stores/
In a letter last week to customers, the supermarket’s CEO said: “You will have seen that we put restrictions in place this week to ensure that more products are on shelf for longer.
From Monday 23rd March, we are consolidating our opening hours and all our supermarkets will be open from 8 am to 8 pm, Monday-Saturday, including those with an Argos store. Sunday opening, Sainsbury’s Local and petrol station opening times will stay the same.”
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, all of the chain’s supermarkets will dedicate the hour of 8 am – 9 am to serving elderly, disabled and vulnerable customers.
NHS ID holders have priority Monday to Saturday, from 7.30 am to 8 am.
To find the opening hours for your local store, visit stores.sainsburys.co.uk
Sainsbury’s can be contacted on 0800 9178 557 to place an order over the phone and have it delivered for £2.95. There is a minimum spend of £40.00.
You will need to pay for your shopping with a debit or credit card when placing your order.
To find the opening hours for your local store, visit stores.sainsburys.co.uk
A number of stores are now operating at reduced hours. Some Tesco Extra stores and larger Metro stores have reduced their hours to between 6 am and 10 pm, in order to be able to properly restock overnight.
Tesco introduced a special shopping hour for its workers and NHS staff 22 March. Those eligible will be able to browse an hour before traditional shop opening hours on Sundays, and will have an hour between 9 am and 10 am to shop on Tuesdays and Thursdays at all stores except for Express stores (which are open to everyone at those times).
In a statement, Tesco said: “They can come to our large stores one hour before the usual store opening time every Sunday, and will be able to browse the store and select their shopping before the checkouts open.
“All we ask is that they bring a form of ID with them to store, such as an NHS staff card.”
To check your local Tesco store, visit: tesco.com/store-locator/uk/
First hour of store opening to be dedicated to older and vulnerable people and it is exploring ways to offer its services remotely.
Other Food Delivery Options
Natures choice have different fruit and vegetable boxes as well as an essential box containing eggs, milk and bread
Freshways – broad range of goods including dairy https://www.freshways.co.uk/products/
Riverford Foods more expensive but I believe good quality https://www.riverford.co.uk/organic-milk-eggs-and-bread
Are there any alternatives to supermarkets?
If you can’t get out to your supermarket or get a home delivery, you could also try contacting your local:
- Organic shops
- Farm shops
- Pubs and cafes – some local pubs and cafes are starting to offer home delivery of ready-cooked meals
- Milk and Dairy farms – milkmen can often supply more than milk, you can often also get eggs, cheeses and yoghurt.
Most communities have now set up support groups to help anyone in self-isolation. This may include shopping for food and collecting prescriptions from the chemist.
Find your local Community helpers
Support is also available through a Government Register. It is free to register if you have a medical condition that makes you vulnerable to the virus. https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable
Full Supermarket list below
You can check for the latest information and find contact details for the major UK supermarkets on their websites.
Marks and Spencer: https://www.marksandspencer.com/
Sainsburys has a vulnerable persons careline – 0800 052 5500. It is attempting to prioritise vulnerable customers for home delivery.
Call wait times may be substantial.
RNIB, jointly with other sight loss sector charities Guide Dogs, Thomas Pocklington Trust and Visionary, has written to supermarket chief executives to ask them how they are helping blind and partially sighted people. While we wait for their responses we have put together information we’ve found online about what they are doing to help disabled customers.
A round-up of information from the major supermarkets can be found on the inews website. Please note that information is subject to change:
RNIB Helpline: Call on 0303 123 9999
We’re open 8 am-8 pm weekdays and 9 am -1 pm on Saturdays.
The RNIB Helpline team can give you advice and point you to the services that can help you face the future with confidence.