After an initial rush on the shops, once we enter level 2, we should expect a subdued return to normal when it comes to shopping, Greg Harford, CE of Retail NZ, told a Horowhenua distance seminar this week.
He said the lockdown had pretty much collapsed retail sales, while under level three sales were down by 80 per cent.
"We have never seen such a decline before. It is very scary.
"Level 2 is the best opportunity for recovery for retail business and there is a chance to benefit from both bricks and mortar and e-commerce to grow your business."
He said online shopping is the most convenient way of shopping for many people and is becoming so sophisticated it is almost as convenient as in store shopping.
As many retailers have taken to online shopping options in a rush, he said it should remain a focus for many, and this offered great opportunities.
It needs to be managed carefully, though. E-commerce does not need to be expensive or complicated. A simple presence, so people know where you are, is helpful to begin with.
"Otherwise you will be invisible. A lot of people look online."
E-commerce will remain important for some time to come, he said. Recent research done by Research First suggested that up to 40 per cent of the New Zealand population will be wary of going shopping for some time to come.
He said he believed retail to be the backbone of any community.
"Retail is what keeps communities alive. They stop towns from becoming zombie towns. Retail is the glue of any community."
He said there are more than 27,000 retail businesses in New Zealand, across 35,000 sites turning over $96.8bn each year, though their profit margins are only 3.6 per cent.
Retailers also employ 9.6 per cent of employees, while well over 13,000 have no staff.
Horowhenua has 270 shops and hospitality sites, employing 1590 staff according to his figures. The entire Horizons region turns over $4.26bn annually.
There has always been limited value in online shopping for retailers. Nine per cent of retail has online in the past. During the lockdown this has ballooned by 350 per cent.
He told local retailers that hygiene, the 2m distance, the use of gloves, masks, and the three S for eateries would be crucial for success under level 2 opening up of shops.
"Keep surfaces scrupulously clean."
Contact tracing systems are not required if the 2m distance can be maintained.
"Keep a record of staff and contractors and the times they are in store, though."
Records can be online or by pen and paper.
"Contactless payments and portable payments make that easier for everyone now that the spending limit has been increased to $200. If you are paying exorbitant fees for contactless payments you must talk to your bank.
"There are better pay rates for this, such as the unbundled rate. It should be affordable for everyone. Most banks have waived such fees, at least for the short term," Harford said.
He said the loss of income for many will also account for reluctance to spend in local shops.
"Expect online sales to go up and instore sales to be down compared to last year, for some time. Under level 3 e-commerce was up by 350 per cent on average. It had been growing prior to Covid-19 but under the lockdown it exploded.
"The big jump was in fashions sales, food delivery and a little bit in hardware and books."
Harford said hygiene and distancing are key to success for retailers reopening.
"There will be special rules for hospitality business as well as certain retailers, such as beauty parlours and hairdressers, where contact tracing and PPE will be important.
"Everyone should have a work plan, both for staff and clients. Be flexible with staff who have concerns."
He said there was value in shopping local. He said he expects life to return to normal with eight to 12 months.
"Shopping is a social experience. It is something we like to do with friends and family."