Coronavirus: Retailers welcome broadening of essential goods sold in lockdown

By Amy Williams of RNZ

People can now buy whiteware, heaters, blankets and devices during the lockdown through online or phone orders that will be delivered in a contactless way.

The Government has eased restrictions slightly to allow the sale of some essential goods, which people may need to safely isolate, stay connected to one another, and work or study from home.

Essential goods now include household appliances, blankets, fridges, heaters, computers and tablets.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) said stores selling these goods must do so using online orders, or phone orders, and keep premises shut.

Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said retailers had been looking to sell a range of goods online ever since the lockdown was announced.

"Retailers are now going to be permitted to sell a range of essential goods online, that's things that keep people warm, key household appliances, computer equipment and mobile phones," he said.

"These are some of the things that are really in demand particularly as the weather changes and it's really important people are able to access those goods."

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Harford said it would provide a little respite for businesses that have had to close entirely, while giving consumers options.

"There's a number of customers who might have been caught short as the weather changes, perhaps they haven't got heating in their house already, potentially there's people who have a fridge or washing machine that has stopped working over the last week or so, so they may be looking to buy a new one."

He said it was not "open slather" for retailers to start selling goods online.

Retailers wanting to sell essential household items online must register with MBIE and provide a list of essential goods they plan to sell.

Briscoes sells $70 million worth of goods online each year but sales stopped when the country went into lockdown six days ago.

Its managing director, Rod Duke, said resuming some online sales would be a relief.

"We've been speaking to Government about heating, on a lovely warm day cooling, blankets and the like, and we've managed to get it through which is great," he said.