Business owners frantically preparing for life under alert level 3

By Katie Scotcher for RNZ

Business owners preparing for life under alert level 3 have been frantically renovating storefronts, building online stores and creating new ways to interact with customers.

Cabinet ministers will decide today if the country should stay in level 4 lockdown for longer or can move to level 3.

When the lower level comes into play, some businesses will be able to reopen but they must follow strict health and safety and social distancing rules, so it will be far from business as usual.

Glen Hitchcock has managed Mr Grumpy's, one of the only takeaways at Foxton Beach, for 18 years. He said the lockdown has been tough, and estimated he has lost tens of thousands of dollars of revenue.

Hitchcock has been busy this last week renovating his shop front, so the business can operate safely under alert level 3.

"There will be absolutely no contact with staff, with anybody. They'll pay by payWave, we've installed payWave... we have now developed online ordering, so they can order and pay online as well."

Under alert level 3, businesses will be able to open - but only for online or phone orders and contactless delivery or pick up.

In the days before lockdown, Scorpio Books in Christchurch was just as busy as it had been in the lead-up to Christmas. But shop floor manager Kit Lyall doesn't expect that to continue once lockdown has gone down a level.

"Realistically, it's not going to bring in the revenue we'd usually need and so there might be questions of like ... how can we continue if level 3 is a long-distance marathon, which we're all kinda planning on."

The central city shop has 20 staff, but only two will be working at a time in alert level 3.

Kit Lyall said running an online bookshop isn't the same, so staff are coming up with ways to interact with customers online.

"Whether that be video content of our staff doing their personal bookshelves at home, or being available on skype for customers to skype into the shop and be like, 'I just read this, what can I read next'."

Trina Laracy runs three fashion retail stores, Paperdoll, Wallflower and Holy Smoke on the Kapiti Coast. All of her sales will be processed over the phone or online.

"I will be packaging up outfits and I will be packaging them all myself with gloves and what-not ... if they have to be sent out, I will have them sitting there ready for the courier."

If a customer wants to come and pick up a delivery in person, "they're not allowed in the store, but what we will do is open up the door, we will have that two-metre distancing and we will be putting the package out onto the pavement for the customer."

Most building and construction workers will be able to pick up their tools under alert level 3, but they must follow strict health and safety and physical distancing rules.

Shahn Bragg, who runs Bragg Building in Southland, said his staff will travel to building sites alone and will be equipped with face masks and sanitiser.

"All our staff have their own diaries, they keep those diaries so we can work out what the charge to what jobs etc, but I've also asked my staff to detail where they've been, who they've worked with on the sites, and I've also asked them to write in who they're with at home, so if someone was to become sick, we do have that data straight away in those diaries to obviously give to the government."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will announce whether the country will move to a different alert level at 4pm today.