The major telcos are repurposing their retail stores as collection points for essential servicing during the Covid-19 locking.

While the likes of The Warehouse Group and the Mad Butcher have self-proclaimed essential service status, only to be shot-down by MBIE, the telco's move is all above-board, according to Geoff Thorn, head of the Telecommunications Forum whose members include Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees.

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"The industry received confirmation from government last night that any entity that provides maintenance and repair services for utilities and communications, including their supply chains, is an essential service," Thorn said on Wednesday.

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Thorn said it was essential to re-open retail stores as non-contact, no-foot traffic locations, given many people would need phone gear fixed or replaced quickly, or grab a new SIM card, but courier networks were congested with multi-day delays.

Vodafone will open stores as "connectivity hubs" from 11am to 2pm daily from Monday, with appoint-only visits spaced at 30 minutes intervals to keep customers apart.

But Spark is first off the blocks.

The telco says it has repurposed 39 of its retail stores and will open them today as non-contact, "emergency distribution centres" - closed to foot traffic but be available for bookings seven days a week for a "short window of time" each day in each location.

Vodafone and 2degrees have announcements pending over the next couple of days

Customers will be able to use the distribution centres for the likes of picking up a new SIM card or phone, or to replace a modem.

The Spark "emergency distribution centres" will be open seven days a week for a "short window of time" each day in each location.

What window of time exactly? Well, it's a case of don't just bowl up. Spark says anyone who needs to access a store first has to dial 123 to lodge a hardware fault or service request.

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They will then be contacted by a Spark staffer who will tell them which store to turn up at and at what time.

The customer will then turn up to the designated store with photo ID, which will be held up to a window for a Spark employee to check.

The Spark staffer will then leave a bag containing product outside the door for the customer to collect. No foot traffic will be allowed, and security cameras will be in place.

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

There is no online map to the open repurposed stores, to discourage people from wandering up on spec, in violation of the Government's level 4 lockdown order.

Geoff Thorn, head of the pan-industry Telecommunications Forum, says Vodafone and 2degrees will shortly announce similar measures for no-contact stores.

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