Major supermarket operator Foodstuffs is looking for more than 400 staff - over 300 of those are for its stores - as it grapples with a surge in demand created by Covid-19.

Supermarkets around Auckland have notices up in their windows seeking urgent help within their stores, some supermarkets have resorted to opening one hour later than usual in the mornings to allow enough time for staff to restock shelves.

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Foodstuffs and Countdown have moved to delay the opening of their stores by one hour to allow staff to restock shelves following the "unprecedented and continued level of demand".


There are more than 350 job vacancies listed on Foodstuffs North Island website, the majority advertising for sales and store assistants, and more than 75 in the South Island.

A spokeswoman for the company, which operates supermarket chains Pak'nSave, New World, and Gilmours, said the actual vacancy numbers were likely much higher.

The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand has swelled to 39 in recent days. The rapid rise in cases has sent supermarkets into overdrive, who are calling for shoppers to "shop normally".

Foodstuffs executives were unable to speak to the Herald today due to the chaos created by people stocking up on groceries in preparation for self-isolation.

In a statement, Foodstuffs head of corporate affairs, Antoinette Laird, confirmed some supermarket stores, including some Pak'nSaves, had delayed their opening times by an hour or so to enable their teams to get the maximum volumes they can on the shelves.

Countdown has announced that from tomorrow, all of its store, including its online service, will open from 9am instead of 8am.

"Staff are working round the clock to make sure customers' needs are met and we are very conscious of looking after them and making sure they are cared for and coping – giving the team extra time is one way of doing this," Laird told the Herald.

"Our operators are working closely with their local communities to scale up their teams accordingly and meet the increased customer demand Covid-19 has created.


"This increased demand has opened a door for our owners to take on new team members whose previous employment may have been adversely affected by the outbreak – in times like these locals helping locals is incredibly important and it's great to see the community pulling together."

New World and Pak'nSave supermarkets were also grappling with a surge in demand for its click and collect services following the outbreak, Laird said.

"Online demand has increased significantly – we encourage customers to plan ahead as much as they can as stores are working extremely hard to fulfil online and meet additional customer needs."

Prior to the outbreak, shoppers were able to make an order the night before a click and collect collection, the Herald understands shoppers now have to wait at least two days to get a pick up time slot.

Foodstuffs is urging shoppers to shop as they normally would following fears that Covid-19 will cause disruption to supply chain resulting in grocery shortages.

Supermarkets say this is not the case and the only disruption they face is being able to restock shelves fast enough.

It is experiencing sales volumes exceeding those experienced in the lead-up to Christmas.

Woolworths, the operator of Countdown supermarkets, has placed a temporary limit on all products, excluding produce and serviced deli, and reduced store trading hours nationwide on the back of the surge in demand.

There is now a limit of two similar items per customer across all of its stores.

Countdown managing director Natalie Davis said the supermarkets were not running out of food, but had implemented the restriction in order to manage demand.

"We have plenty of food in our supply chain, however, we simply cannot get it through the network fast enough if Kiwis don't slow down their shopping," Davis said.

"While this may be frustrating or inconvenient for some customers, we need to provide our team with the time and ability they need to get as much product on shelf as possible during this time of extraordinary demand.

"If the store is too busy, we will be managing the number of people who can be in our stores at any one time for the safety and wellbeing of our team and other customers."

Spending data released today by Marketview shows that overall spending in the past week has risen by 4.7 per cent along with a 2.3 per cent increase in transactions, however, only 11 or the 18 tracked store-types experienced an increase in spending.

Food-related stores such as supermarkets, butcheries and bakeries recorded the highest increase in spending.

Spending in supermarkets and dairies was up by 15.7 per cent last week.