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HomeNEWSCovid-19 updates: Dairies are an essential business but most liquor stores aren’t

Covid-19 updates: Dairies are an essential business but most liquor stores aren’t

Confusion has reigned in retail ever since the Government announced that only ‘essential business’ would be permitted to remain open to the public after midnight Wednesday. While it’s still up in the air whether specialty food providers like small grocers, bakers, butchers and fruiterers will be permitted to remain open, a few more details have since been released.

The Warehouse Group yesterday expressed an intention to keep its Red Sheds open during the four-week lockdown, but the Government has since made it clear that this won’t be allowed.

“Only the businesses absolutely essential to ensure the necessities of life, like supermarkets and pharmacies, can stay open. If in doubt, the business premises should be closed,” says 

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment deputy chief executive Paul Stocks. 

“So unfortunately the Warehouse needs to close its shops. Leaving them open to the general public creates too high a risk of further spreading the virus.” 

Stocks says ‘big box’ retailers like Bunnings, Placemakers and Mitre 10 can stay open to trade customers for essential purposes only.

“These retailers play an important part in the construction supply chain, but they cannot sell goods to the general public.”

Stocks has clarified that hospitality businesses like restaurants, cafes and bars must close all aspects of their business, including delivery. It sounds like meal kit services such as My Food Bag will be permitted to continue operating under the new rules.

“Delivery of food that is not pre-cooked will be allowed under strict health conditions,” says Stocks. “Many New Zealanders now receive their food via a delivery company and are in effect no different to a supermarket delivery option.”

The Government is still making up its mind about ecommerce for non-food products, says Stocks: “We are doing further work on online ordering of non-food products for home delivery to see if this type of retail can be conducted safely. We will update advice on this once further decisions are made.”

There was much speculation regarding dairies yesterday, but these will be allowed to remain open as long as they operate on a strict ‘one-in one-out’ policy. They won’t be allowed to sell food prepared on the premises.

Liquor stores have been seeing unprecedented panic-buying as shoppers race to equip themselves with Dutch courage. The New Zealand Alcohol Beverages Council told the NZ Herald that bottle stores recorded a 1800 percent sales spike on Monday.

The Government has confirmed that liquor stores are being treated as non-essential retail outlets and must close. There is one exception: in Licensing Trust Areas, where alcohol is sold nowhere else, they can remain open as long as they operate a ‘one-in one-out’ policy.

Four areas in New Zealand have licensing trusts which retain exclusivity rights: Invercargill, Mataura (Southland) and Portage and Waitakere (both in West Auckland). Waitakere and Portage licensing trusts manage many operational activities through a shared service model known as The Trusts, which operates liquor stores under brands including West Liquor and Village Wine and Spirits.

Retail NZ says it welcomes the additional clarity. Chief executive Greg Harford says it’s good news that the Government has offered better direction and removed uncertainty for both business owners and customers.

“Retailers want to do the right thing to help New Zealand get through the Coronavirus Crisis, and clear information from Government is essential to enable this.”

“There remain some areas which need further clarification. In particular, it remains unclear whether specialty stores supplying essential food such as small grocers, bakers, butchers and fruiterers are able to open. Additionally the Government has not yet made a decision on whether non-essential stores can continue to trade online, subject to appropriate safety arrangements. Retail NZ is continuing to seek advice from officials on these points.”

You can read more about licensing trusts and what they do here.

Find the Government’s full list of essential businesses and services here.

The Government has said it will soon launch an 0800 number alllowing businesses to find out if they’re permitted to remain open. The number doesn’t seem to have been released yet, but will be posted here when ready.

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