Coronavirus: Kiwi shoppers spending more money supporting local businesses

COVID-19 has provided not only an economic shock but a shock to our habits. 

In the wake of the pandemic, Kiwi consumers are increasingly making the choice to spend their money supporting local business. 

But it's been a tough few months for Alice Isles, who's the co-founder of clothing story HejHej. She recently took a leap of faith from the online market into a physical store.

"Everything went quiet, which was a bit scary," she says. "Suddenly we had rent to pay and employees to pay and we didn't want to let anyone down."

The virus has had a huge impact on the business but she says a new found love for supporting New Zealand businesses is giving her a boost. 

"It's always been something that people have been interested in, whether we are a Kiwi brand or not but now it's always the opening line. And always asking who we are, where we are from and our story, which is great."

Recent research from Rutherford Lab shows 53 percent of Kiwis are choosing to make changes to how they shop post-lockdown, and 70 percent of those people expect these changes to last for years or permanently.

New Zealanders Newshub spoke to say they believe it's important to support local businesses.

"I'm concerned if there are not enough people supporting them that they could do under," one person believes.

"I don't do a heck of a lot of shopping anyway but what I do buy I think I'll consider buying more local stuff," another says.

Consumers are flocking to support Kiwi-owned businesses in-store and online. 

Paymark figures show total spending is up 13.7 percent from last week, leaving us only 2.3 percent behind the same week last year. 

The ShopKiwi website is a directory of New Zealand-owned and operated stores. There are currently close to 1500 businesses on the website, with another one being added every five to ten minutes.

BuyNZ Made executive director Ryan Jennings says there's been a huge shift to shopping local.

"Kiwis have really started to change their behaviours with how they buy," he says.

For businesses like HejHej, websites like that are vital. 

"That's really important for people to be able to find the brand as much as they want to support. They might not know where to find you before the platforms have been set up," Isles says.

Businesses are doing their best to capitalise on the trend too. BuyNZ Made received a year's worth of trademark applications in the four weeks of lockdown. But there are fears the flurry of interest could be short-lived. 

Rising economic uncertainty and increasing unemployment is likely to see shoppers close their wallets. 

"That's a real question mark over the next few weeks and the sooner we can move to level 1 and open up the cash corridor with Australia, the better it will be for businesses," Jennings says.

With a long, cold winter looming, the future of New Zealand businesses is far from signed, sealed and delivered.