Shoppers are being warned of price hikes across the board as goods begin to disappear off shelves in a scenario one retail leader says hasn't been seen since World War II.
Sea freight prices have skyrocketed and Bay businesses say imports are being delayed by months and the cost of imported materials were rising.
According to Retail NZ, "unprecedented" demand on the supply chain meant that "if a product is imported, there's likely to be a delay getting it landed and on the shelf''.
Chief executive Greg Harford said shortages were being reported across the board.
Price increases were on the way across most products, including food.
''This is because of the substantially higher costs of labour, higher costs of freight and higher electricity prices that are starting to impact retailers.''
'''The congestion and disruption is really unprecedented, and nobody has ever seen anything like it, and we don't see a quick fix.
"There were disruptions during World War II, but the world [and the retail sector] were far less globalised in nature."
The average net margin in retail was just 3.9 per cent – so retailers could not absorb substantial extra costs, he said.
Zen Aromas owner Kirsty Nielsen said freight costs on a container from the US had doubled compared to six months ago.
Most of her products, including oils, fragrances and soy wax, were imported and she had items out of stock for six months.
"We will try to absorb as much as we can but prices are definitely going to go up."
Soy wax had jumped by 15 per cent in price alongside other raw materials and manufacturers were also struggling to get products out of Europe. In China, Nielsen said the issues was trying to find containers to put their stock on.
"This has a massive flow-on effect.''
On the flipside, Nielsen said they had weathered the last 12 months well and forged new relationships with potential suppliers.
She said she tried to buy a couch and was told the wait was six months.
Superfurn Rotorua worker Paula Mellorf said the business had been waiting since lockdown for some supplies.
"Some companies have been out of stock for three, six and nine months. Bunks, in particular, are really bad and wrought iron pieces."
She said the store stocked a lot of NZ-made pieces and its owner was good at finding items for the shop floor.
The business was buying stock off arriving containers but these were often before hitting the shore.
"If it is not on the floor we have no choice but to put up prices. Freight prices are increasing, our suppliers are putting up prices sometimes once a week or once a fortnight."
Craftables owner Mike Saunders said he used air freight, which arrived in one or two weeks.
His last container took four months. His biggest issue was two- and three-month manufacturing backlogs.
"You can wait for what you want or buy something that is the same but a different brand."
Maxine Patterson, who created a Facebook page dedicated to finding specials in Tauranga, said she had noticed gaps on shelves.
"I was a bit horrified that stocks seem to be running low in some frozen food items. I also noticed there were a lot of cat food brands missing."
Patterson said she had been told to wait six weeks for a chair ordered online. She knew of others waiting for school shirts.
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said customers were shopping around for prices and delivery times.
"Many retailers rely on high turnover of stock, so importing delays are grinding their turnover to a halt. Many have budgeted for minimum turnover of stock to cover their fixed operating costs."
Spokespeople for Foodstuffs and Countdown both said the companies were working with suppliers to minimise impacts to customers.
Foodstuffs NZ Corporate Affairs head Antoinette Laird said Covid continued to impact the global supply chain.
''Along with many other products that arrive by boat, the supply of sub-tropical/tropical fruits to NZ are intermittently disrupted and customers may find stock varies from store to store and in the North and South Islands."
A Placemakers spokesperson said it had delays on some imported products due to market dynamics including global demand, freight, backlogs at New Zealand ports and the pandemic.
"Our main supply challenges at present are across key lines which are largely sourced domestically such as structural flooring, structural timber, outdoor timber (such as pine decking, fencing, and retaining), and cladding."
The March quarterly Kiwibank Household spending tracker revealed domestic spend declined by 9 per cent, prompting fears nest eggs had been depleted.
Kiwibank Economist Mary Jo Vergara said the post lockdown sugar rush of spending has come to an end as expected.
"If household spending continues its downtrend, it would raise alarm bells around the health of the labour market. Fortunately, there are no signs that job security is becoming a [new] worry, yet."
A Craig's Investment Partners report questioned whether rising cost pressures and inflation could derail New Zealand's economic recovery.
The latest ANZ Business Outlook survey showed expectations of cost increases are at the highest level in more than a decade.
This month the minimum wage was bumped to $20 an hour - an increase which employers said at the time was too much and badly timed.
What the Ports say
A Port of Tauranga spokeswoman said about 80 per cent of the container ships calling at Tauranga have previously called at Auckland.
Six cranes were loading and unloading at all times.
"We are processing ships as they arrive but we will not compromise safety in order to rush them through."
The container terminal was operating at more than 100 per cent of capacity with about 4000 imported 20 foot equivalent containers waiting for rail transfer to Auckland.
"We are working closely with KiwiRail to try to secure additional trains. They have managed to give us some extra capacity last week and this week, with even more trains promised from early May."
Ports of Auckland spokesman Matt Ball said he doubted port congestion in NZ would impact retail prices as much as shipping costs, especially on low-value items.
Container vessel delays have improved but Tauranga was still handling some containers that would usually come through Auckland.
"Before Christmas we were seeing average delays of over three weeks, we are now seeing average delays (based on a four-week average) of just under four days.''
Costs for New Zealand importers and exporters have surged in the past year as shipping lines increased their charges amid strong demand for space as air freight capacity dried up in the pandemic and consumer demand soared.
Container shipping giant Maersk told NZME yesterday it would add a seventh vessel to its Southern Star service that calls at Tauranga and other ports before heading to South East Asia.