Foodstuffs says the pressure on its supermarkets has eased, with a noticeable difference in customer numbers since the weeks leading up to the Covid-19 alert level 4.

Supermarkets around the country have endured queues so long they've snaked around their carparks and been left with bare shelves as people panic-shopped for groceries in the lead up to lockdown.

It's forced not only company bosses but even Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and other officials to tell Kiwis to "shop normally" as demand increases, putting pressure on suppliers.

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In Auckland at its peak, some supermarket carparks were filling up two hours before opening and many items were still unavailable, including milk, flour, rice, pasta, many cereals and tinned goods.

At Countdown, it has been so busy it has again decided not to have any weekly specials.

One shopper said there were queues outside Pak'nSave Silverdale before it opened at 8am yesterday.

"Staff seemed caught unawares and by 9am queues were snaking through the supermarket just to get to the checkout area," she said.

However, a customer at Royal Oak Pak'nSave had a different experience; stating all shoppers were channelled through one entrance but people were in good spirits and chatting.

"It didn't take long and actually made for fairly easy shopping inside. And there weren't many queues at the checkout.

"It was actually a great way to keep the shop flowing nicely. I usually avoid weekend shopping but I think this made it better. I wouldn't say it made me panic-buy but I probably bought more than I would have. The staff were doing a great job."

When contacted yesterday, Foodstuffs spokeswoman Antoinette Laird said their stores had been busy at the weekend but not nearly as busy in the weeks and days in the run up to alert level 4.

"It was our first weekend of two-metre physical distancing measures, so some queues may appear to be longer, but it's actually customers effectively observing the two-metre physical distancing measures.


"At busier times, Foodstuffs supermarkets have adopted a 'one in, one out' policy when the store is at sufficient capacity to continue to observe the two-metre physical distancing measures - and customers have been patiently queuing outside until it's their turn to go in."

Shoppers queue at Countdown Dinsdale, Hamilton, last week. Photo / File
Shoppers queue at Countdown Dinsdale, Hamilton, last week. Photo / File

As customer demand has eased, staff at Foodstuffs supermarkets - which includes Pak'nSave, New World, Four Square and Raeward Fresh stores - had been able to stock shelves more evenly.

"We encourage customers to continue to shop normally, as we have enough for everyone. Our teams are doing an incredible job and we're proud of what they're achieving."

It was helping that customers were nominating one member of the family to shop, ensuring the number of people in-store was kept to a minimum, Laird said.

"Keeping a physical distance of two metres is a big challenge for all of us but we're all up for the challenge and uniting together against Covid-19. Our stores have signage in place inside and out to indicate what two metres looks like and we're relying on everyone who shops and works in the store to play their part.

"While we're not yet perfect at this, we're learning fast and doing our level best, quickly rectifying issues when they're raised and finding operational solutions to support physical distancing as they arise."

In recognition of their hard work and commitment, waged distribution centre, transport and front-line New World, Pak'nSave and Four Square employees would receive a 10 per cent allowance on top of their hours worked throughout the four-week alert level 4 period.

Laird urged customers to be "patient and kind to our teams and each other when getting groceries".

"We're all doing our best and we will continue to do so as we all unite against Covid-19. #be kind. #shopnormal. #shopsafe." The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website