The major supermarket chains hired thousands of new workers during lockdown as demand for food supplies surged. But where are these staff now?
The Herald revisits the surge in demand experienced by supermarkets over the mandatory lockdown as workers scrambled to restock shelves, and takes a look how the major players responded to booming sales - and whether their workforces are just as big today.
Collectively, Foodstuffs and Countdown - New Zealand's two largest supermarket operators - hired more than 4000 workers during lockdown.
Australian-owned Countdown hired 2500 staff, Foodstuff took on more than 1600.
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In the weeks that followed New Zealand's move to alert level 4 on March 25 hundreds of stories hit headlines of queues of shoppers inside and outside of stores, of supermarkets struggling to restock shelves fast enough and surging grocery spending figures - in some cases, and on some categories, up at ridiculously high rates.
Toilet paper, flour, yeast, sugar and tinned goods were among some of the most sought after items during lockdown.
Foodstuffs and Countdown, along with the Government, were forced to remind shoppers to "shop normally" and to only buy what they needed in a bid to control the panic-buying induced shopping sprees New Zealanders were on.
Notices were in shop windows up and down the country advertising urgent calls for new staff, and the supermarket chains were quick to jump on the PR bandwagon to make it known that they had hired hundreds of displaced workers from the travel and tourism industry that had been made redundant.
Foodstuffs North Island hired former House of Travel employees for its customer contact centre, the company's distribution centre hired several supervisors from Air New Zealand and some stores in the co-operative took on baggage handlers who "swapped suitcases for superfoods and spring onions".
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Some New World stores took on former flight attendants and Pak'nSave took on staff from adventure tourism and the hospitality sector.
Robin Wilson-Whiting, retail, finance and commerce organiser at First Union, which represents thousands of supermarket and retail workers in this country, said most of the supermarket workers hired during lockdown were on fixed-term contracts.
A large portion of those hired in the first half of the year would have already finished working with the supermarkets, Wilson-Whiting told the Herald.
Foodstuffs says it has retained 800 of about 1600 of staff hired during lockdown, people who are working in its store centre, supply chain logistics and store roles.
"These employees came from diverse and skilled backgrounds from aviation, tourism, hospitality and entertainment industries, and have settled nicely into their new FMCG roles," Antoinette Laird, head of corporate affairs for Foodstuffs, said.
"Of the 800 who have moved on from Foodstuffs, they were either on a contract or have returned to their originating companies as their previous work picked back up."
Foodstuffs chief executive Chris Quin said the company could not have got through the challenging period without the new staff it employed during lockdown.
"We couldn't have looked after every New Zealander the way we did during lockdown without our new team members. It was an incredibly challenging time and we are grateful to them and all of our Foodies, but also for the support we received from other NZ companies asking if we needed a hand from them.
"The in it together attitude and collaboration that got us through lockdown is going to be a key driver in helping hard-hit industries and our economy rebuild and recover."
Countdown general manager of health and safety, Kiri Hannifin, said more than half of the 2500 staff the supermarket chain hired during lockdown were hired into permanent roles, and the retailer had been "working hard to convert the remaining team on casual and fixed-term contracts into permanent roles".
"Currently we've already converted over 50 per cent of our fixed-term and casual staff to permanent roles. Our new team made a massive contribution over the last few months and we're excited to have them on board on a permanent basis."
Earlier in the week, Foodstuffs confirmed 29 jobs at New World Wanaka would be dis-established on the back of a drop in customers in store since the borders closed.
The store was forecasting a significant reduction in turnover for the foreseeable future and the number of staff in the store would be reduced from 134 to 105.
Wilson-Whiting said the union had not heard of any other redundancies at either supermarket chain as the country moved back to normalcy, but she said it was highly possible in parts of the country which were usually tourist hotspots.
"Staffing levels are determined by sales, and their sales have gone down since the panic-buying and all of that, and so what that means is that the budget has reduced - it doesn't mean that any person with contracted hours has a cut to their hours, but people are encouraged to take annual leave and use their leave to meet the budget," she said.
"Feedback, the message very clearly from the other workers working in the stores, in Countdown supermarkets in particular, is that they have always needed more people working in order to have safe staffing levels, and we raise this regularly with the company ... but the budget and profit margins win out.
"We encourage the company to convert those fixed-term contracts to permanent contracts so there is a healthy amount of staff."
Countdown employs more than 20,000 staff and Foodstuffs about 30,000.
Sales at supermarkets across the country increased by more than 27 per cent in the four weeks of level 4 lockdown ending April 19.
Nielsen's Scantrack sales data shows grocery items across all categories were up significantly during the month of the strictest lockdown requirements compared to the same period a year earlier.
Not surprisingly, the sales of cleaning products, supplies and disinfectants increased by almost 70 per cent.
Baking products such as eggs, butter, flour, sugar, baking powder and cooking chocolate experienced a 53 per cent increase in sales during that time, while canned and convenience foods such as soups and frozen meals sales increased by 64 per cent.
A month earlier, in the three weeks to March 15, sales of toilet paper at supermarkets increased by 87 per cent, this followed a surge in sales of household cleaners and facial tissues, up 76 per cent and 67 per cent, as initial concerns of Covid-19 set in.