Coronavirus: 'Essential' items you didn't know you could get

Package at door
Retailers offer health, beauty and pet products, and audio sunglasses during lockdown. Photo credit: Supplied/NoelLeeming.

Opening up the floodgates to allow shipments of 'essential non-food goods' has led to retailers offering tooth whiteners, beard grooming kits, audio sunglasses and other unexpected items.

It comes after the Government confirmed on Monday that essential non-food items would be made available to the public during COVID-19 level 4 lockdown.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) describes 'essential non-food consumer products' as providing warmth, key household appliances and maintaining health. Examples are blankets, heaters, kitchenware and appliances, whiteware, computer equipment and mobile phones.

Newshub jumped online to find out which products major retailers view as 'essential', with a few surprising results. 

At The Warehouse, essential goods include pregnancy tests and fish oil tablets which could be bought at supermarkets and pharmacies instead - and tooth whitening kits.

At Briscoes, vegetable spiralizers and nutri-bullets are viewed as 'maintaining health', delivered in five-to-seven days. PB Tech's 'essentials' list includes beard styling, a backpack and audio sunglasses, dispatched in two working days.  

Although kids' toys' aren't available during lockdown, it seems the same rule doesn't apply to animals, with no restriction on cat scratchers and dog toys at PETstock. From 30 March, pet food and other products can still be bought online, with the choice of either home delivery or 'zero contact click and collect'.   

The Warehouse website
Toothpaste is essential but is it the same for tooth whitening kits? Photo credit: Supplied/The Warehouse.

Examples of items available for purchase on Wednesday:

The Warehouse ('essential' items):

  • Nivea Men shower gel, 500ml for $7.00
  • Peter Rabbit classic 5-piece dinner set, $19.00
  • Living & Co stainless steel slotted turner, $7.00
  • Prognosis early pregnancy test x 3, $16.50
  • Red Seal fish oil tablets 1000 mg 200's, $11.50
  • White Glo diamond series whitening kit, $29.99 and Oral-B white luxe advance seal whitening strips 14pk, $30.00.

Briscoes (heating, bedroom and kitchen 'essentials' - 30 percent off):

  • Chef n Twist spiralizer, $48.99
  • Nutribullet original 5-piece 600 series, $79.99
  • Russell Hobbs seal fresh vacuum sealer, $149.99.

Noel Leeming ('essential' appliances): 

  • Remington beard styler grooming kit, $59.99
  • Breville Barista express espresso machine, $799.

PB Tech (goods that support working or studying from home): 

  • Gigabyte GA-B450M gaming mATX motherboard, $149.95
  • Targus Cypress 15.6 hero large backpack, $124.99
  • Bose frames alto audio sunglasses enhanced with Bose sound, $345.


  • Petpals paws 3-tier scratcher $99.99
  • Yours Droolly floating droolly dog toy (medium), $31.99.

As it's unable to provide details of every essential item, the MBIE website states that businesses need to form a judgement on what's genuinely essential.  If businesses are too generous, the government will take action.

"We expect businesses and households to act responsibly when they decide what these essential goods might be. 

"We expect businesses to minimise their product offerings and households to only order goods that are absolutely necessary," the MBIE website states.

Greg Harford, chief executive of Retail NZ, said that although MBIE has provided examples, there's no firm guideline on what's 'essential'.

"There are still some questions around exactly what’s potentially included in the definition of 'essential' and Retail NZ is exploring those with officials, Harford said.

Retailers should provide clear information on the 'essential goods' that can be shipped during lockdown.

"My understanding is that a retailer is not able to be delivering goods that are not deemed to be essential – so they need to make that clear on their websites," Harford added.