COVID-19: Retail businesses concerned they won't survive another lockdown

Businesses still recovering from New Zealand's last COVID-19 lockdown may struggle to survive another, Retail NZ warns. 

Retailers and restaurant owners hope this one only lasts for a few days, but the Government is preparing to extend the wage subsidy if it lasts longer.

Retail NZ CEO Greg Harford says he's worried some businesses won't survive.

"It will cost the retail sector hundreds of millions of dollars, we think, over the next few days, and it's coming at a time when retail is really, really fragile."

Restaurants, bars and many other businesses had to close by midday when alert level 3 came into effect in Auckland. Some shops didn't open at all on Wednesday, whereas others used the morning to make last minute preparations and hoped they'd be back in store by the weekend. 

"[You] hope for the best but expect the worst," manager of Ponsonby's Evolution Clothing store Mikaela O'Reilly says.

It was only announced on Tuesday night Auckland would go into alert level 3 restrictions and the rest of New Zealand into level 2. It forced many restaurants to sacrifice perishable supplies by giving them to staff, who were heading home with little hope they'd return this weekend.

Waiter at Beau Restaurant Peter Lucky says it isn't particularly likely he'll be back at work by the weekend.

"Obviously we'd like to reopen when everything's safe again, but as soon as possible would be best."

All non-essential businesses in Auckland, including retailers and restaurants, are officially shut down, leaving an eerie feeling felt during the first lockdown.

Economists say this latest lockdown should cause just a small economic hit, but if things have to last longer than three days it could be significant. 

In that case, Finance Minister Grant Robertson says he'll consider additional targeted support for Auckland businesses.

He says the Government still had $14 billion of its initial emergency COVID-19 package "left in the kitty for exactly this kind of circumstance".