Shopping centres get ready to open under alert level 2

Picture inside shopping centre
Social distancing, capacity limits and deep cleaning are about to be the new normal. Photo credit: Getty.

The move to COVID-19 alert level 2 marks seven weeks of closed doors for retailers - and full car parks are expected when shopping centres reopen on Thursday.

Although click-and-collect and contactless delivery have allowed necessities to be bought online, popping down to the local store rather than waiting for goods to be packed and delivered will be a relief for some.

Kiwi Property Group owns shopping centres at Sylvia Park and Lynnmall in Auckland, The Base and Centre Place in Hamilton, The Plaza in Palmerston North and Northlands in Christchurch. General manager of asset management Linda Trainer said that centres will reopen at 9am, but under alert level 2 opening hours won't be back to normal.

"Centres will operate at reduced hours with no late-night trading for the first two weeks until May 28.

"Customers are advised to check the website of their local centre as opening hours may vary for both centres and individual retailers," Trainer said.

Social distancing, management of customer numbers and regular deep cleaning will be part of the new regime.

"Kiwi Property will be using people counting systems to monitor customer capacity limits at each centre in accordance with New Zealand Government requirements.

"We're working with our retailers to provide a safe shopping and working experience," Trainer added.

Before moving to alert level 2, chief executive of Retail NZ Greg Harford said that retail businesses had been working hard to manage social distancing and hygiene in-store and would be ready.

People visiting large stores, such as The Warehouse or Kmart, could expect to see the same practices in place as those used by supermarkets, such as markers on floors and separation of queues.

Although it's likely shopping centres will be busy, it will be a while before it's business as usual.

"Demand is not going to be back to normal when we go to level 2: it's still going to be really tough-going for retailers," Harford said.

New Zealand officially moves to COVID-19 alert level 2 at 11:59pm on Wednesday.