Retailers threw open their doors as New Zealand moved to Alert Level 2 on Thursday, May 14, which cleared the way for a wider range of businesses to reopen and for people to socialise with friends and family outside their household ‘bubbles’.
Those allowed to trade under the new restrictions are expected to enforce social distancing and increase their hygiene and sanitation procedures to stop coronavirus case numbers from climbing again, small sacrifices for businesses that saw revenue slow to a trickle during the lockdown.
Hairdressers, who are required to wear PPE under Alert Level 2, were among those celebrating the reopening on Thursday. At least three Auckland barbers opened at 12.01am to serve a small but enthusiastic group of late-night patrons, according to AAP.
Hardware chain Mitre 10, which was able to sell to the trade under Alert Level 4, and offer contactless click and collect and home delivery under Level 3, also opened its doors to customers for the first time in seven weeks on Thursday.
“We are delighted to welcome customers back into our stores,” said Jules Lloyd-Jones, chief of customer marketing and inspiration at Mitre 10.
The national network of locally owned stores has put a range of safety measures in place to ensure appropriate physical distancing and increased cleaning in stores.
General manager of retail operations Andrea Scown said the network has worked hard to develop solutions to fit government guidelines at each stage of the pandemic response.
“We’re incredibly proud of how our members, stores and teams have risen to the challenges brought by COVID-19,” Scown said.
“From predominantly bricks-and-mortar retail, stores pivoted to an e-commerce-based Click & Collect/home delivery model, implemented a Personal Shopper service and ensured the safety of teams and customers throughout.”
Mitre 10 expects demand for these services to ease now that stores have reopened, but will continue to make them available.
Shopping centres are also being advised to implement new safety measures under Alert Level 2, according to a statement from the NZ Council of Retail Property (NZCoRP).
Guidelines include facilitating social distancing via extensive operational signage, increased hygiene and sanitation procedures, rigorous round-the-clock cleaning schedules, encouraging contactless transactions, reducing common dining seating areas and providing support to businesses with specific regulations, such as hairdressers and beauty clinics.
“While each centre will have a unique application of these guidelines depending on their layout, the aim is to implement widespread procedures that ensure the highest standard of safety and hygiene are met,” Campbell Barbour, chair of the NZCoRP, said.
“No one wants to see us move back up the alert levels. It is imperative that a united approach is taken, and that New Zealanders feel comfortable supporting their local retailers as we kickstart the post-covid economy.”
Greg Harford, chief executive of Retail NZ, said these measures should reassure customers that it is safe to go out shopping again.
“It’s great that customers can now get back into store, and they can do so knowing that the retail sector has been working very hard to put in place systems and processes to keep customers safe,” he said.
Harford also explained that while smaller businesses may be recording customer contact details for tracing purposes, there is no requirement for retailers to maintain contact tracing records if they can maintain a two metre distance between customers in store.
“Customers going into most large format stores today can expect to be asked to stay two metres away from other customers, and this will continue for the duration of the Level 2 Alert,” he said.
“Where social distancing can be maintained, there’s no need for retailers to contact trace.”
A survey of Retail NZ members shows that around 58 per cent of stores, mainly those operating from smaller premises, will be collecting contact information for customers.