Shopping frenzy at supermarkets ahead of Easter shutdown

Supermarkets have been extra busy on Thursday as New Zealanders scramble to get Easter treats ahead of Friday's forced nationwide closure.  

The Prime Minister announced last month that supermarkets would be closed on Good Friday but could open on Easter Sunday amid the COVID-19 crisis.   

On Friday queues could be seen snaking around the footpath and stretching down the road at one Wellington supermarket. 

One customer was after some last-minute hot cross buns, another some Easter eggs, wine and baking products.

"I've got the essentials, but then also I've got a couple of bags of hot cross buns because the flour's running low," one customer told Newshub.

"And then a couple of chocolate eggs to share with the seven flatmates I'm with including some hospital staff, so why not bring some Easter cheer to them."

The rush was also seen in Christchurch with one supermarket shopper saying: "It's just crazy today. I don't know why they are all panicking. They shouldn't".

But supermarkets are saying there are plenty of Easter treats for everyone and today's rush follows similar scenes over recent weeks.

The recent shopping frenzy has been reflected in figures for retail card spending in March which saw grocery sales, or consumables, increasing by $376 million (17 percent).

But other industries haven't been so fortunate with the sales of clothes and shoes falling by $98 million (31 percent), fuel spending was down $113 million (19 percent), and hospitality was down $338 million (30 percent).

Retail NZ CEO Greg Harford says the impact from COVID-19 is devastating.

"The impacts of that are huge for the retail sector. There are a lot of businesses that have seen their revenues almost entirely evaporate."

But one positive is the limit for contactless payments is being temporarily lifted on most bank cards, from $80 to $200.

"That means customers are able to make larger transactions without needing to touch the pin pad on an EFTPOS terminal and therefore they've got less risk of contracting or spreading the COVID-19 virus," Harford says.

But the new changes are not in time for Easter shopping, with it expected to take weeks before it comes into effect.