The chopping and changing of government guidelines for shops and malls at alert level 2 put businesses on the back foot, according to Retail New Zealand.
With New Zealand's move to alert level 2 last week, retailers were able to reopen their stores to the public under a number of guidelines set out by the government.
Retail chief executive Greg Harford told Morning Report the transition wasn't as smooth as some businesses would have liked.
"The big issue with contact tracing is that there's been a lack of clarity and some contradictory information coming out of different parts of government at different times and I think where the government landed last week, finally late on Wednesday night, was that contact tracing was not required in retail but the retailers are required to maintain two-metre distance between their customers.
"Now that's a little bit challenging for some smaller stores of course and everyone is trying to do their best to comply," he said.
Glenfield Mall owner Dallas Pendergrast shared Harford's message that the contact tracing rules for retailers was confusing.
"We find it very difficult keeping up with the rules and really understanding what is required.
"There has been very little information for shopping mall owners as to what we are supposed to be doing. We're all doing our best, we've had a lot of signage put up around the mall... reminding people about distancing," Pendergrast said.
Harford said it was also going to be a long time before retail stores get back to pre-Covid sales figures.
"Customers are still certainly out and about and things were busy ... anecdotally sales dollars were down on what we might have expected," he said.
Hartford said that the retail sector has seen significant growth in online shopping over recent years and particularly during the lockdown.
However, he said online sales pose more challenges for businesses, such as infrastructure and courier capabilities to meet demand.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern acknowledged there were some businesses confused about what contact tracing they were required to do.
"[Retailers] need to make sure they have good hygiene practices in place, that they are supporting shoppers to keep a distance from one another, and because they're in such a short space of time they're are not required to contact trace every single person that comes into their store. Hospitality are required to contact trace," she told Morning Report.
She said the 100-people limit didn't apply to malls.