Countdown bringing back specials as coronavirus panic-buying bedlam slows down

Countdown is reintroducing specials this week as the initial panic-buying chaos triggered by New Zealand's coronavirus lockdown begins to die down.

The supermarket chain announced last week that it would not be offering specials, as it didn't want to inadvertently encourage people to buy groceries at a time when demand was through the roof.

But Countdown says customer demand has started to even out, allowing the supply chain to "repair itself" - and that means specials can now be brought back.

From Wednesday the supermarket will offer meat and Easter specials, and next Monday it'll implement a "broader promotional programme".

"We are feeding more people than we ever have in our history," managing director Natalie Davis says.

"We made the decision not to go ahead with planned promotions last week because we simply didn't have the stock in store for our customers. Thankfully that is beginning to repair itself as Kiwis heed the advice to shop normally."

Last week, supermarkets around the country saw their stock snapped up at breakneck speed after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced New Zealand would be entering an alert level 4 lockdown.

Queues all week were out the door, with reports of people waiting for up to an hour just to get in and start buying groceries.

Davis says managing the increased demand in this time of crisis has been a difficult task for Countdown and other supermarket chains.

"It's a fine balance to get right between managing and exacerbating demand, filling trucks with what's most needed, and ensuring our team can focus on what's most important and work safely," she said.

"We've had incredible support from our suppliers and customers, and we're hoping things will settle even more."

Despite the drop in demand, Countdown is urging people to order their groceries online if possible. Over the weekend, it announced that people over 70 and those with physical disabilities would be given priority on grocery deliveries.