Cash strapped Tauranga retailers are reinventing themselves online to haul back massive losses but the association which represents the majority of them believes they should be allowed to open for business.

The move down to level 3 has allowed some retailers to trial an online presence for the first time and reconnect with their customers as they try to survive.

But Retail NZ boss Greg Harford says while online shopping has provided some relief from lockdown he believes retailers should be able to open their doors if it can be done safely.

Ben Taylor, who owns Bethlehem Butchery with wife Nicky, said business had changed dramatically since pre-Covid-19.


"We went from a retail business to having a website with online orders and click and collect."

Subscribe to Premium

Taylor said the business was active on social media but did not have an online presence until now.

"This is all new to me," he said. "I think that is the way it is going to go in the future."

Now more than ever, Taylor said it was important to be supporting local businesses.

"I think if you don't, you are going to see them disappear quickly.

"If you don't support the little shops, it is stopping income for families and it is a big domino effect."

But he said business owners have to do their part too.

"You can't just expect that when you open your doors everything is going to go back to normal. It is almost like starting the business again.


"We are the ones who can get the economy going again. Treat it like you are starting your business again. Work as hard as you did at the beginning."

Books A Plenty staff member Donna Lovett holding up their payWave through the window. Photo / George Novak
Books A Plenty staff member Donna Lovett holding up their payWave through the window. Photo / George Novak

Chris Baskett, co-owner of Books A Plenty, said the business was operating with the doors closed via phone, online and email orders, as well as contactless delivery.

"We have also discovered that we can use payWave through the window."

Baskett said it was vital for the business to be up and running again in level 3 and she had been "blown away" by the support from locals.

"We have lost five weeks of business. I can put a monetary value on that and it is very large. It will take a long time to catch up.

"But we have had Government support and now we have customer support. We are so looking forward to having a core of our loyal customers back again."


Co-owner of Tranquillo Beauty Clinic John Dewes-Hodgson said the business had long waiting lists.

But even though the beauty clinic could not open their doors in level 3, his wife and co-owner Sue had been having phone consultations with their clients to stay connected.

Dewes-Hodgson said going weeks with no income was a big hit for businesses and supporting local was important.

"For us, it is a survival thing."

Smiths Sports Shoes co-owner Bruce Trebilco said the business was taking online and phone orders and customers could either click and collect or have their shoes delivered for free.

"To get going in level 3 was very important to get some cash flow going again," he said.


"People have been pleased to see us. There has been a lot of walking and running going on in lockdown and everyone is wearing out their shoes."

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

Trebilco said it was important for businesses to reopen again as quickly as they could to get back to some kind of normal.

"Selling online and doing deliveries is not up to our normal turnover but it is certainly a help.

"Small businesses need to get up and running as quickly as they can otherwise we won't be around at the end of the year."

Lauren Hart, business manager of New Zealand-made women's fashion store Kilt, which had stores in Rotorua and Tauranga, said the boutique stores had all had an increase in online orders.


"For us, we are in the lucky position where we are New Zealand made and we have got a lot of our stock already.

"The key thing is keeping money in New Zealand. We want to see those businesses survive through this."

Greg Harford, chief executive of Retail NZ. Photo/ Supplied
Greg Harford, chief executive of Retail NZ. Photo/ Supplied

NZ Retail chief executive Greg Harford said e-commerce can be done safely and was an easy way for customers to purchase goods.

"We've been calling for online shopping to be allowed for some weeks, and the fact that it is now allowed will give retailers a little relief from level 4 when they were effectively deprived of all cashflow."

However, Harford said Retail NZ believed businesses should be able to open their doors to customers as well.

"The supermarkets have shown that safe shopping can be done ..."


Harford said local businesses had been through a difficult period with no cash coming in from sales.

"Retail NZ strongly encourages people to #shoplocal because shopping at local businesses will help keep those businesses alive, keep jobs in local communities, and ultimately keep town centres vibrant."

Shopping from a New Zealand website also meant people had much easier ways to get issues sorted if there was a problem.

"It's good to know that just because a website has a co.nz website doesn't mean it's a legitimate Kiwi business.

"We advise customers always to make sure they know who they are dealing with online and to deal with trusted and legitimate businesses."