1 Apr 2020

Covid-19: Essential goods expansion brings reprieve for people lacking necessities

10:49 am on 1 April 2020

People caught short with undelivered or broken appliances are relieved they can now order some essential goods online or by phone.

Woman hand loading dirty clothes in washing machine.

(File image). Photo: 123RF

This week, the government allowed the online sale of some essential goods, which people may need to safely isolate, stay connected to one another, and work or study from home.

Retailers including The Warehouse, Noel Leeming, Harvey Norman, Briscoes and PB Tech are among those offering online and phone orders and contactless deliveries.

All store fronts will remain closed.

Michael Patterson said he had a whiteware nightmare last week when the washing machine he shared in his Auckland flat broke down just before the lockdown.

He said a repairman visited yesterday.

"That's the thing that's put me a bit more at ease, that the repairman was able to come out and that the retailers are able to sell. I guess my worries are I don't know if I'm going to be ripped off and I don't know how long it's going to take for delivery," he said.

"I can do a little bit of handwashing but I guess there's also a little bit of grin and bear it. If I wear the same t-shirt two days in a row is anyone going to know?"

Others are still waiting on items ordered before lockdown, including Joy Marshall, whose new chest freezer was due to be delivered last Saturday.

"We have three children and we're always running out of milk and bread so we need a chest freezer. We ordered it and they said it would be delivered on Saturday and, of course, that was the week everything was announced and we went into lockdown," she said.

"We weren't really expecting a delivery but we were hoping for a phone call or an email but we've just had nothing."

She said her husband was also waiting for a WiFi adaptor to be delivered.

"At the moment, he's working at the kitchen bench amidst all the craziness of three kids who are two, four, and six years old, and it would be great for him if he could work from the spare room but we're waiting for that piece of technology as well."

Others face similar challenges, including one couple whose car was stolen from outside their Auckland home on the fifth day of lockdown.

Sarah Lawton said they had another car but their daughter's booster seat was in the stolen vehicle.

"It's got our carseat in it for our five-year-old daughter so it limits our ability if we have to go to the doctors or hospital with her, and insurance has said they can't do anything about it 'til after lockdown," she said.

"It makes you feel vulnerable because, you know, everything's closed and you can't replace it, your hands are tied, and you really are stuck."

Lawton said she planned to look online to see if retailers were selling booster car seats.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is vetting goods each retailer can sell.

The Warehouse said it will sell hygiene health and beauty items, baby supplies, and homewares, including bedding and blankets, heating, engine oil, and batteries. While Noel Leeming will sell items needed for working from home and home schooling, as well as items for cooking and food prep.

In a statement the retailer said its commercial arm will supply the government and essential businesses with key items, including ministry needs for home schooling and insurance company replacement items.

Briscoes said it will sell items including blankets, heaters, dehumidifiers, kitchenware, cooking appliances and winter bedding products.

Resuming online sales may help retailers weather the storm.

Paymark's latest figures show there was a 72 percent drop in spending the first day of lockdown compared with the same day a year ago.

Its spokesperson, Paul Brislen, said the ground had changed under retailers' feet.

"Like the rest of us, they've got to adapt to a life online and those companies that do want to continue trading in the next few months will have to rapidly build or expand on their online trading opportunities," he said.

"It's one of those things we've been talking about for a very long time, the move to online shopping. I think finally we'll start to see those companies that have never really considered the online world to be a priority to understand that is really what they're going to have to do for the next few months if they want to survive the outbreak intact."

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