Some of the country's largest retailers are struggling to meet demand as the number of online orders soars amid physical shops remaining closed under lockdown.
While some retailers have reportedly gone radio silent and switched off their phones to customers, others are warning shoppers that they face wait times of up to 14 days for orders to be processed and sent out.
Some retailers, including The Warehouse, Farmers, Rebel Sports, Kathmandu and Whitcoulls, have been forced to put up notices on their websites warning of "unprecedented demand" and delays to standard delivery times.
The Warehouse's website says "Please be patient, please be kind. We're shipping orders as fast as we can", while Farmers' reads: "Due to unprecedented demand through our website and the courier network, your delivery will take longer than normal to reach you".
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The Herald has heard complaints of waiting time for orders running more than six weeks at retailers such as Cotton On, and there are frustrations around why click and collect orders are taking up to 14 days to be processed at The Warehouse - the same amount of time as those for delivery.
New Zealand shuttered its shops and went into lockdown ahead of Australia and now Australia has already opened up and loosened its restrictions to allow physical trade amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Online sales volumes at retail chains Briscoes and Rebel Sport are eight to 10 times higher than usual volumes under level 3 lockdown, Briscoe Group managing director Rod Duke told the Herald, while online sales at outdoor equipment and clothing retailer Kathmandu are 2.5 to 3 times higher than this time last year.
Retailers were unprepared for the "massive boom" in online spending and many were working at capacity to fulfil orders, Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said.
"Retailers are doing their best to meet what is unprecedented customer demand and the reality is they weren't allowed to prepare for it," Harford said.
The sector had received a surge in online orders, particularly at the start of last week, when the country moved to alert level 3 and online shopping opened up to include all items outside of just essential items, Harford said.
Duke describes the surge in online orders as "just like Christmas time": "You just can't prepare enough to accommodate these sorts of volumes in the run-up to opening."
Selling only essential items under alert level 4 lockdown accounted for around 2 per cent of the group's regular 10 per cent online sales.
E-commerce sales volumes were "better now than they will ever get", he said.
"There's a whole bunch of people out there ordering online not because it's their preferred way to purchase; they are doing it because it is the only way to purchase."
Duke said he thought New Zealand's lockdown had "gone on a bit long" and that now was the right time for shops to reopen to take the pressure off e-commerce.
The Warehouse Group, which is due to release its Q3 sales update to the stock exchange later this week, was unable to comment on the increase in online orders it had received at its retail chains since the country moved to level 3 lockdown, but said order processing times were taking longer due to "unprecedented demand".
A spokeswoman for the company, which operates The Warehouse, Stationery Warehouse, Noel Leeming and Torpedo7, said its online orders were being shipped in 10–14 days and estimates wait times for click and collect orders ranged from five to 10 days for standard items and seven to 10 days for larger items.
In emails sent to customers, it has advised waits of up to 14 days for click and collect items.
"It's a longer timeframe than usual due to unprecedented demand," the spokeswoman said. "Product demand and availability can also impact the length of time it takes us to get some orders ready."
Cotton On Group, which operates Cotton On, Cotton On Kids, Cotton On Body, Typo, Rubi and Factorie stores, said it was currently processing online order volumes six times its normal daily amount.
"Like many retailers, we've seen a significant surge in online orders as a result of Covid-19 and in some regions," a spokeswoman for the Australian retail company said.
"At our New Zealand distribution centre, it's all hands on deck to pick and pack our customers' orders ... With New Zealand moving from level 4 to level 3 restrictions, our national transport system is under significant pressure to deliver a higher than usual volume of goods, and we're working closely with our transport partners to get orders out to customers as quickly as possible.
"Our customers are incredibly important to us and we've been proactively communicating with them every step of the way as well as providing support via our customer service team who are available 24/7. Right now, we're experiencing a higher than usual volume of enquiries and have encouraged customers to get in touch via email or live chat for a faster response.
"These are unprecedented times and everyone is facing similar challenges however we're confident in our plan and are focused on continuing to give customers a great shopping experience."
James Pascoe Group, the owner and operator of Farmers and Whitcoulls, did not respond to the Herald's request for comment.
Retail NZ said the surge in online orders experienced during level 3 lockdown would encourage retailers to invest in their e-commerce capabilities.
"What we are seeing what is a systemic jump in online sales and it is not going to fall to pre-Covid levels; we're going to see a sustained level of spending on online and retailers need to gear up for that and look closely at their processes to make sure that they are able to service a big jump in demand."