Retail NZ is warning shoppers to be wary when spending online with non-essential retailers during the lockdown as orders will not be fulfilled until restrictions are lifted.

Given the growing uncertainty, and rapidly evolving situation with Covid-19, it is not yet known if the lockdown will remain longer than one month - this poses the risk of orders stacking up and long-term stability questionable.

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Some non-essential discretionary retailers in the market continue to take online orders, with the intention to fulfil these after the lockdown have been lifted. Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford warns against this, as the outlook is too uncertain.

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"We suggest that businesses should act with caution if they are doing that, they need to be really clear that they are going to be able to fulfil those orders down the track otherwise they potentially run foul of the Consumer Guarantees Act or Fair Trading Act," Harford told the Herald.

"We are living in an abnormal world, something you order is not going to be automatically delivered in the next couple of days because there's restrictions on freight and a big reduction in capacity coming into the country in terms of airlines so that will impact delivery.

"For those shoppers who are looking at overseas websites to procure goods, there are issues about of whether products will actually get into the country."

Some retailers have been leveraging their Australian fulfilment centres to send out their non-essential goods from across the Tasman.

But the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment says these businesses should not be rorting the system.

"We expect businesses to act responsibly in the interests of keeping everyone safe. This includes both businesses and the public making the right calls about what is an essential good," a spokesperson from MBIE said.

"While courier services are still operating as they are part of the supply chain for essential services, they are only expected to deliver essential goods."

Harford said the uncertainty created by not knowing whether the lockdown would be lifted after April 23 and what impact that would have on businesses made it particularly risky.

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"We just don't know at this stage when the lockdown will be lifted or what that might look like. The Government is talking about a four-week lockdown but the signs are there that if it doesn't go well, it could well be longer."

If orders to non-essential services continued during the lockdown, when this was lifted it would cause significant pressure on transport supply chains to clear a backlog of goods, he said.

"My message to consumers is if you are going to shop online during this period and you are going to be buying orders in advance, shop local, and shop from a business you know and trust, it's important to be shopping at a reputable business that you know is going to be there in the long run."

Government has deemed essential businesses are those that provide the necessities of life: food, medicine, healthcare, energy, fuel, waste-removal, internet and financial support.

Supermarkets and diaries have been deemed as essential, so too have Bunnings and Mitre 10 for trade building customers.

Multi-product retailers that supply food and beverage as an ancillary service, such as The Warehouse, are not an essential service, as our the likes of clothing, footwear, homeware and beauty retailers.

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