Countdown Tauranga will temporarily close from 8pm Sunday to be converted into an online-only store.

Craig Taylor, manager of the store on the corner of Cameron Rd and 13th Ave, said staff were told of the change yesterday.

He said Countdown was experiencing "extreme demand" for online shopping throughout New Zealand, and Tauranga was no exception.


"We'll be communicating this to customers over the coming days and, while we know it will be a little inconvenient for some people, we hope they can understand our need to do everything we can to ensure we can deliver food to those who need it most in our communities."

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The company has previously done the same with its Grey Lynn Central supermarket in Auckland.

On Monday, the company said it was working towards converting another five supermarkets to online hubs to meet demand over the lockdown period.

Stores were chosen where there were alternative stores nearby for customers to use.

The company's health and safety general manager Kiri Hannifin said in Monday's statement: "Our teams have been doing everything possible to scale up online and home deliveries to the elderly, people with disabilities or those in mandatory self-isolation.

"We are continuing to work hard to increase the number of online delivery windows we have available, and prioritising these for vulnerable New Zealanders.

"We ask our regular customers for their patience as we do this and, if you are able to, please shop in our stores so we can help prioritise those Kiwis who need this online service the most."

Countdown has a priority assistance service for people over 70, with chronic illnesses or disabilities that make it difficult to shop in stores.

Countdown also has Tauranga stores in Fraser Cove, Bureta Park, Greerton, Bayfair, Papamoa Plaza and Te Puke.

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Online shopping spots have been in hot demand across Tauranga and all supermarket brands that offer delivery or pick-up/click-and-collect services.

Customers have reported spots were often booked within an hour of being made available - even those a week in advance.

Supermarkets have asked those customers who are able to visit a store to do so, and reserve online shopping spots for vulnerable community members.

A wave of panic buying that accompanied escalating restrictions on movement in the fight against Covid-19 this month forced Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to ask Kiwis to "shop normal".

Ardern assured Kiwis food supply chain services would remain open during the lockdown.

This week she urged Kiwis to be kind to supermarket workers following reports of abuse by customers. In Whakatane, a Pak'n Save worker was spat on by a customer refusing to follow the rules.

On Tuesday the Government announced supermarkets would be closed as usual on Good Friday but will be able to open on Easter Sunday.

The Covid-19 committee's decision on Easter trading was based on the need for staff to rest and for supermarkets to restock, but also that people needed access to essential food. They also wanted to ensure people didn't panic buy.

Any staff who objected to working on Easter Sunday would not have to work.

- Additional reporting NZ Herald

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website