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Online retail to reopen under Stage 3 restrictions

The Government outlined Stage 3 restrictions, which once active will allow retailers to once again trade online if not considered ‘essential’.

Under the new restrictions, people must work from home if they can, but retail, hardware stores and restaurants can reopen online, or for phone purchases, contactless delivery or click and collect.

“By design, level 3 is a progression, not a rush to normality,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

“Importantly the test for a business opening at level 3 moves to it being safe, rather than being essential.”

Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said the shift wwill be as good news for the economy and consumers.

“The retail sector is focused on domestic consumption and can play a key role in helping reboot the New Zealand economy,” Harford said.

“Online trading, and the provision of click and collect services are a key means by which we can start getting things going again. Retailers are now in a position where they can begin planning for a level three world, with greater clarity around what is permitted.”

While Harford believes many retailers would be able to open physical stores safety, the industry body understands that is something they must continue discussing with the Government.

The changes will put domestic retailers back on an even playing field with international players which have been circumventing the country’s Stage 4 restrictions to deliver to Kiwi consumers.

Many retailers weren’t able to trade online under the Government’s retail restrictions, and while couriers were instructed to only deliver “essential items” parcels from international retailers have still been delivered.

“Fundamentally, if there is a COVID-19 safety risk with fulfilment of online shopping, then that risk is the same whether the goods are coming from New Zealand or Australia or further afield,” Harford told Inside Retail.

“Retail is generally a low net-margin business at the best of times, and I am expecting that there will be a large number of retail businesses that don’t survive the lockdown, particularly once the 12 week Government Wage Subsidy has ended.

“We are also likely to see a systematic shift to more online shopping, with customers preferring to shop from home rather than visit physical stores, especially in the short-term.”

Edit: The original version of this story indicated the Government would be moving to Stage 3 restrictions immediately. This is not the case, and the story has been updated to reflect this.

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