COVID-19 Countdown media statements
Countdown confirms rent relief to tenants during alert level 3; all stores now back to normal trading hours from today
25 August 2020: Countdown will continue to support small businesses throughout alert level 3, with rent relief for tenants like cafes, travel agencies, hairdressers, takeaway outlets and real estate agencies with shops on Countdown’s sites in Auckland.
Countdown’s General Manager Format Development and Property, Jason Stockill says many small businesses are finding things very tough at the moment and Countdown wants to be able to help where they can. Providing rent relief to its tenants during this second Auckland lockdown hopefully reduces some pressure.
“The outlook continues to look uncertain for many of our retail partners and small businesses, and we want to do what we can to help our tenants bounce back from this,” says Jason.
“In the first lockdown our tenants were able to allocate savings from rent relief to focus on other expenses. We hope that this second rent relief package will help ease some of the pressure small businesses are facing at this uncertain time.”
Countdown has also confirmed that all stores around the country have now returned to their normal opening and closing hours, including Auckland.
Shopping back to normal with limits on products removed in all Countdown stores
22 August 2020: Kiwis have shopped responsibly and adjusted well to life under the different alert levels over the last week, with Countdown now removing all product limits in-store and online.
Product limits were put on a number of highly sought-after products when Auckland went to Alert Level 3 and the rest of the country went to Alert Level 2. Countdown’s General Manager of Corporate Affairs, Safety and Sustainability Kiri Hannifin says introducing the limits was the right call to help curb demand, but thanks to Kiwis’ shopping responsibly, they can now be lifted.
“When the changes in alert level were announced, we put the product limits in place to help prevent panic buying and to make sure there was plenty for everyone. While we did see some initial rush for the COVID-19 staples, customers have done a great job of only buying what they need, so thank you,” says Kiri.
“The difference we have seen between this lockdown and the last one has been massive. Kiwis have adapted to the different alert levels remarkably well - they are shopping normally, looking out for each other and our team, and are taking the safety measures we’ve got in place really seriously. Because of this, we’re really pleased to remove all product limits in our stores throughout Aotearoa.”
Product limits removed and regular trading hours back for South Island customers
20 August 2020: Countdown’s South Island customers can now shop without product limits and at their normal shopping times, thanks to adapting so quickly to the Alert Level Two restrictions.
From today, all product limits and trading hour restrictions in South Island Countdown stores have been lifted.
Countdown’s General Manager of Corporate Affairs, Safety and Sustainability Kiri Hannifin says the changes reflect how well South Island customers have adjusted to Alert Level 2.
“With the South Island at Alert Level Two, we are seeing very little panic buying and our supply chain performing incredibly well. As such, we’ve removed the product limits in all of our stores down south. This ease in pressure has also meant we can return to normal trading hours in those stores as well,” Kiri Hannfin says.
Countdown is also seeing South Island customers adapting really well to the physical distancing and other safety measures its stores.
“It’s been really important to us that we can give our customers peace of mind when they are shopping in our stores, and we’ve had really positive feedback from external agencies about just how well our processes are being managed. But that wouldn’t be possible without the support of our customers,” Kiri Hannifin says.
“Kiwis are well practiced when it comes to responding to Alert Level changes and we’re really grateful to customers in our South Island stores who are following the guidelines we have in place and making sure they and others can stay safe when they are doing their shopping.”
Advisory: Countdown to revert back to normal opening times; stores to continue to close at 9pm nationwide
17 August 2020: Countdown is thanking Kiwis for keeping their shopping calm over the weekend, and will return to normal opening times from tomorrow, Tuesday, 18 August. All stores will continue to close at 9pm for the time being.
The earlier opening hour also aims to help shift workers such as emergency workers and medical professionals who often shop first thing in the morning. Countdown says they are seeing few, if any, queues in their stores, and online shopping availability is also good.
General Manager Corporate Affairs, Safety and Sustainability, Kiri Hannifin, says Countdown’s customers and store teams are in a good rhythm in lockdown, allowing the return to normal opening times.
“We’ve got great support from our suppliers with a steady supply of stock to our shelves, and we aren’t seeing the panic buying like we have previously, which means we’re in a good position to get things back to normal where we can.
“This change will also mean that those people who typically shop early like medical professionals, emergency workers and those working shifts will be able to access our stores at a time that works best for them.”
Countdown is continuing limits on some sought-after products to help manage demand.
Countdown well-prepared for extension of Alert Level 3 in Auckland
14 August 2020: Countdown is well prepared for the extension of Level 3 restrictions for the Auckland region with strong safety controls already in place, increasing online shopping capacity, the online Priority Assistance service in action, and Countdown Pharmacy now available online nationwide.
Countdown’s General Manager Corporate Affairs, Safety and Sustainability Kiri Hannifin says the business is in a good position to continue to provide customers with the food and essentials they need safely and efficiently.
“While our online shopping service is seeing a lot of demand, we’re working hard to increase capacity for our customers as well as ensuring we have plenty of delivery slots available for our Priority Assistance Service customers. Overnight, we’ve had 300 new applications for this service and we’re working on getting through these as quickly as we can to ensure our most at risk customers can get their food and essentials quickly and safely.”
“Our customers have done a great job of adapting to the Alert Level changes across Aotearoa and are well practiced in what is required when they visit our stores. It’s great to see many of our Auckland customers are wearing masks and playing their part in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
Countdown is also reminding customers to keep checking in using the NZ COVID Tracer app before entering its stores.
“Contact tracing is a really important part of the government's response to COVID-19. Our stores have their posters up and we’d encourage customers to check-in before they enter our stores,” Kiri says.
Countdown has also launched its Countdown Pharmacy online service to ensure people who need to stay home during Level 3 are still able to access key pharmacy products including vitamins, pain relief and other health essentials. Online Pharmacy can be found here.
Changes to store trading hours, limits on products, online Priority Assistance service back up and running, Albert Street Metro closed temporarily
12 August 2020: Countdown has temporarily changed its opening hours nationwide and introduced limits on products that are in high demand, to help ease pressure on its store teams as the country responds to changes in COVID-19 Alert Levels. The company’s Priority Assistance online shopping service for vulnerable customers has also been reinstated today.
Countdown’s General Manager Corporate Affairs, Safety and Sustainability, Kiri Hannifin, says Countdown is in a very good position to navigate the alert level changes and customers should feel safe in its stores.
“Our previous lockdown experience has stood us in good stead. We know that our processes are robust, our supply chain is strong, we can keep Kiwis safe, and we have plenty of food for everyone. We hope this provides Kiwis with reassurance that together, we can deal with different lockdown scenarios again.
“We’d urge customers to consider others when they are shopping in our stores. Whether that’s physically distancing themselves from other shoppers, making sure they’re only buying what they need, and of course being kind to our team and fellow customers,” says Kiri Hannfin.
Today Countdown has introduced the following:
All Countdown stores throughout New Zealand will close at 9pm tonight and re-open at 8am tomorrow, with these new hours (8am - 9pm) in place until further notice.
Limits are in place for a number of products that were particularly impacted when the country went into lockdown in March. From today there is a limit of three on the following categories:
Canned Baked Beans and Spaghetti
A limit of six has been put on wine and beer and a limit of one pack per customer has been put on all mask products.
Priority Assistance online shopping service
As with March and April, Countdown has seen significant volume to its online shopping sites over the last day. To help make sure we can get groceries to those New Zealanders who are unable visit their local store and considered at risk from COVID-19, we have re-started our Priority Assistance service.
Customers who were previously approved for this service will already automatically have access to priority online delivery slots. New customers may be able to apply for Priority Assistance from tomorrow.
Albert Street Metro store temporary closure:
Online shopping orders have increased significantly over the last day, so to help service this demand in Auckland particularly, and keep our stores stocked and running smoothly, we are temporarily closing our Metro store to allow team to support other stores in the area.
Customers who typically shop at Albert Street Metro will need to shop from another local store.
Wednesday 12 August - Statement
Please attributed to Kiri Hannifin, Countdown’s General Manager Health & Safety:
The news about four COVID cases in Auckland is obviously concerning for all of us as Kiwis, but we are well practiced in what needs to be done in our stores to keep our team and our customers safe.
Over the next few hours, we’ll be working to bring our Level 3 measures into place in Auckland, and Level 2 measures throughout the rest of the country. This will include physical distancing measures in our stores, limits on customer numbers, limits on some products, queue control and extra cleaning.
We’d echo the Prime Minister’s comments that there is no need at all for anyone to stock up - we have plenty of food and supplies for everyone and we want everyone to shop as they usually would and consider others.
We have done this before and we can do it again - look out for each other, be kind and stay safe.
Safety and hygiene remains the priority at Countdown in Level 2,
supermarkets back to regular opening hours and product limits lifted
12 May 2020: As the country moves to Alert Level 2 on Thursday, Countdown supermarkets around the country will go back to their regular opening times and all limits on products will be removed.
Countdown’s physical distancing and strict hygiene measures will stay in place, with stores continuing to limit the number of customers in stores at any one time. Customers will still be encouraged to shop alone where possible.
General Manager of Health and Safety, Kiri Hannifin, says the business is looking forward to welcoming customers back to their regular routines while still making sure that safe shopping is a priority for both Countdown’s team and customers.
“Kiwis should be very proud of the incredible job we have done in getting New Zealand to Level 2, but we absolutely must remain vigilant when it comes to physical distancing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” says Kiri Hannifin.
“While we all have more freedom, we also have responsibility to help maintain physical distancing from other shoppers and our team members when you’re shopping in Countdown stores. This may mean from time to time you may need to queue. We thank Kiwis in advance for their patience and for working with us to maintain a safe environment.”
From Thursday, all Countdown stores will go back to their pre-lockdown opening times, all product limits will be lifted, popular services like fresh flowers and Lotto will be back, and Countdown’s Albert Street Metro (Auckland), Cable Car Lane (Wellington) and Northwest (Auckland) stores are re-opening to welcome back customers. Countdown Moorhouse (Christchurch) will re-open on Monday 18 May.
The Alert Level 2 changes also mean the priority shopping hour for emergency workers and medical personnel will no longer be needed.
“The priority shopping hour was put in place during the lockdown to ensure our amazing, hard-working, frontline emergency workers and medical personnel could buy what they needed before the store opened to the public. With the move to Level 2, and stores now open for longer, this priority hour is no longer needed. We’ll review this if anything changes in the future,” says Kiri Hannifin.
“We know our customers are pretty keen to get back to their usual routines as soon as possible. By reverting back to our original opening hours, taking limits off products in our stores, and bringing back other popular services, we can help make things feel a bit more normal at the supermarket. It’s great to be a little more normal but please continue to shop safely, shop alone wherever you can and keep your distance.”
Countdown declares Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020 officially over
Limits removed from toilet paper and most products to help people shop less often
Friday, 17 April: It’s a wrap. The Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020 is officially over with New Zealanders now using up their stocks and limits being lifted on packs of the paper gold.
Countdown’s General Manager Merchandise, Steve Mills, says the days of Countdown stores being wiped out of toilet paper have now ended.
“The situation was pretty tear-able to be honest; New Zealanders were simply buying more than they needed and flushing their normal shopping habits down the drain.
“Throughout the lockdown, we’ve been reminding people of two key things. Number one: only buy what you need. And number two: to shop normally - there is plenty of toilet paper to go around. We’re really pleased that customers have listened to this advice and are using up what they’ve got in the cupboard,” says Steve Mills.
“This means the pressure on our toilet paper supply has eased, so when it comes to having shelves stocked with toilet paper - we’ve got it in the bog.”
Countdown is also taking limits off most products in stores now that the local supply chain is re-building, and to help enable customers to shop less often.
There are now no limits on products at Countdown stores nationwide except on the following:
A limit of four packs/bottles of beer and wine per customer
A limit of two will still apply to products where we continue to see high demand so that we can make sure there is some for everyone. Those items are:
Rice - Bags
Canned baked beans & spaghetti
Feminine Hygiene products
Online shopping customers are also limited to three baby formula products per order.
Countdown opens country’s first 24-hour eStore to service massive online shopping demand
Thursday 16 April: Countdown is today opening New Zealand’s first purpose-built and permanent eStore in Auckland, which will help the busy supermarket business service the significant and growing demand it is seeing for online shopping delivery.
The 8800 square metre store in Auckland’s Penrose looks like a regular supermarket, with a butchery, bakery, shelves of packaged grocery items, fresh fruit and vegetables. But there’s one critical difference in Countdown’s newest store – there’s not a customer in sight.
Instead, a team of 200 personal shoppers (including 105 people brand new to the Countdown business), over a mix of full and part-time roles, will run the dedicated eStore and complete online orders for customers from ten of Countdown’s busiest Auckland supermarkets.
Countdown’s General Manager Digital, Sally Copland, says the Penrose eStore aids the company’s swift response to the Covid-19 demand, which has already seen six stores temporarily closed to help increase online shopping capacity and ensure delivery services can be prioritised to those most in need at this time.
“Demand for Countdown’s online shopping service was in significant growth even before the Covid-19 outbreak but the situation we are now in has made it even more critical to Penrose opening on time.
“With New Zealanders staying home for the lockdown, visits to our website have increased 300 per cent. We are seeing ten times the amount of customer registrations than we normally would each week, and additionally we have now delivered groceries to tens of thousands of New Zealanders who registered for our priority assistance service.
“This means our new store dedicated to serving online shoppers is more important than ever,” says Sally Copland.
Operating 24 hours a day and seven days a week, the 8800sqm Penrose eStore will have the capability to fulfil more than 7500 online orders each week, thanks to a layout based on sales data that increases picking efficiency.
The first delivery trucks will leave the store at 6am daily with the final deliveries taking place at 7pm every evening. When orders are not being picked, the eStore will be replenishing more than 25,000 products.
Online Pick Up orders will continue to be fulfilled and collected from local stores, with increased windows available at each store due to moving delivery orders to the Penrose eStore.
“Handling all online delivery orders from ten of our regular supermarkets will free up space in-store making it a better experience for both our store customers and our team,” says Sally Copland.
“As well as increasing our delivery capacity, we’re estimating being able to triple the number of Pick Up orders processed at the stores affected as a result of these changes. This is
crucial in these challenging times when we know so many people are relying on online shopping,” says Sally Copland.
Furthering the efficiency of the store, Countdown has partnered with Boston-based eGrocery startup Takeoff Technologies to soon introduce a partially-automated micro fulfilment solution at the site. The complex yet flexible unit means personal shoppers can easily access packaged goods without having to walk up and down store aisles.
“While it’s challenging at the moment, ultimately today’s customers want to order and receive their grocery shopping on the same day. This innovative technology quickly picks and moves the most popular grocery items to our personal shoppers on a conveyer belt meaning they can fulfil even more orders with ease.”
Fresh fruit and vegetables as well as meat, fish, deli items and slower-moving goods will continue to be selected manually to ensure top quality.
The new technology comes into operation later this year and will increase the service capability to 15,000 online orders a week. Until then, personal shoppers will pick all groceries manually. No jobs will be replaced by the technology.
“After more than 20 years since launching Countdown online shopping, we are constantly innovating to provide an ultra-convenient grocery experience for Kiwis.
“We’ll continue to invest in our wonderful team as well as new technologies to enhance our mix of online delivery, online Pick Up and in-store supermarket shopping options,” says Sally Copland.
Countdown’s new eStore will service online delivery orders from the following Auckland supermarkets: Mt Wellington, St Johns, Three Kings, Mt Eden, Botany, Manukau City Mall, Meadowlands and Manurewa, with Grey Lynn Central and Ponsonby to be included at a later date.
In response to the recent increased demand, Countdown has temporarily closed its Grey Lynn Central, Northwest, Tauranga and Moorhouse stores to convert them to online orders only, and has redeployed team members from its Albert Street Metro and Cable Car Lane stores to support other stores’ online shopping needs.
Countdown stores to extend opening hours from 8am to 8pm daily
(Priority shopping hour for emergency services and medical personnel now 7am)
Tuesday, 14 April: Countdown stores across the country will be changing their opening hours from tomorrow Wednesday, 15 April to open from 8am to 8pm. The change aims to allow customers more time to shop and help ease queues.
Countdown’s priority shopping hour for emergency services and medical personnel will now move to 7am, so that they can continue to get their food and groceries before the store opens to the general public. This priority shopping hour is available to NZ Police, Fire Service, ambulance paramedics, DHBs, hospital and medical personnel with proper ID.
Countdown’s General Manager Health and Safety, Kiri Hannifin says the trading hour changes will give customers a little more time to shop and hopefully lessen the need for queuing outside stores.
“We’ve extended the opening hours of our stores to give our customers more time to do their shopping, especially as the weather starts to cool and the evenings are darker.
“We have a number of measures in place to make sure our stores are safe to shop in during the lockdown, and to help ensure our customers can maintain physical distancing in our stores. This has in some instances led to queues but we’re hoping extended trading hours will help ease this a little. We also hope the earlier start time of our priority shopping hour will work better for those emergency workers and medical personnel working shifts.
“Our customers have been doing a great job of playing their part to help us stop the spread of COVID-19. We’d ask that they continue to use the hand sanitiser we have available, keep at least a trolley length between themselves and other customers, and make sure there’s just one person per family doing the shopping as much as possible,” says Kiri Hannifin.
For regular updates, visit Countdown’s COVID-19 information online.
Contactless payments increased limit available in all Countdown stores from today
Thursday, 9 April: From today, customers will be able to make contactless payments up to the value of $200 without the need for a pin at all Countdown stores throughout New Zealand, in a further effort to help prevent the potential spread of COVID-19.
The current $80 PIN limit for contactless payments will be temporarily increased to $200 for all Countdown customers with most New Zealand bank cards. This means customers will now be able to keep their hands clean by avoiding using eftpos keypads for their bigger shops.
Countdown’s General Manager Health and Safety Kiri Hannifin says they have been working with the government, Payments New Zealand and the major banks to ensure Countdown could roll this added safety measure out to its customers as quickly as possible.
“The health and safety of our team and customers is our top priority. While we’ve already increased our cleaning of high touch areas in stores such as the eftpos machines, having the ability to offer contactless payments means customers have a touchless way to pay for their groceries. This is a fantastic step forward in the country’s efforts to reduce the spread of Covid 19.
“The previous limit of $80 was fine for people picking up a few bits and pieces, but difficult for people who are trying not to shop too often, which is exactly what we want people to do. Temporarily increasing the limit to $200 will make life a lot easier and more hygienic.
“By working alongside Payments New Zealand and banks, we’ve been able to quickly and efficiently roll this out to all of our stores ahead of what we expect will be a busy few days for our stores as people prepare for celebrating Easter in their bubbles,” Kiri says.
For more information on the temporary increased limit visit the Payments NZ website: https://www.paymentsnz.co.nz. If customers have any further questions about this increase, they should get in touch with their bank or card provider directly.
Countdown stores to open one hour earlier for emergency services and medical personnel; changes to limits in store help customers shop less often
Wednesday, 31 March: From Thursday this week, Countdown stores around the country will open at 8am to provide a priority shopping hour each day for emergency services and medical personnel. Stores will then open for the general public from 9am to 8pm.
Countdown has also extended the limits on a range of food items to enable customers to come to the supermarket less frequently, including no limits on fruit and vegetables, meat, deli, seafood and Countdown’s Easter range.
Emergency services and medical shopping hour
Any emergency services and medical personnel carrying proper identification will be able to get their food and groceries before the store is open to the general public.
"Our emergency and medical services are continuing to go above and beyond for New Zealanders as they work to keep our communities safe. We want to show our deep appreciation to them during this very challenging time by helping ensure they can get groceries for themselves and their families,” says Kiri Hannifin, Countdown’s General Manager Health & Safety.
“We hope that we can take a little bit of pressure off their week and make sure that when they get home after working long hours they will have the essential supplies they need.”
This offer applies to members of the New Zealand Police, Fire Service, ambulance paramedics, medical professionals including DHB personnel, doctors and nurses.
Countdown has also introduced a Priority Assistance service for online deliveries to people deemed by the government to be most at risk of Covid-19.
“The advice we continue to receive from the Ministry of Health is that people who are 70 years old or older, who are immune-compromised or have chronic illnesses should stay at home. We want to help make that possible by giving those people priority access to our online delivery,” says Kiri Hannifin.
“We’ve already approved more than 16,000 people for Priority Assistance since it launched last Wednesday but we are experiencing incredible demand for our online shopping service with close to 100,000 customers registering last week. We’d encourage everyone who is physically able to shop in our stores to do so, so we can keep as many delivery slots as possible for those who need them most and cannot go to a supermarket.”
Changes to product limits in Countdown stores
With customers now adjusting to the Level 4 alert lockdown, Countdown is extending its limits on a range of products to ensure customers don’t have to visit stores too regularly.
No limits on meat, produce, deli, seafood and Easter products.
A limit of four on beer, wine and any bakery goods not made in our stores
A limit of two will still apply to products where we are seeing increased demand so that we can make sure there is some for everyone. Those items are:
Rice - Bags
Canned baked beans & spaghetti
All other items will have a limit of six.
Countdown to help small business during lockdown - rent relief for tenants and faster payments for small suppliers underway
Tuesday, 31 March: Countdown has today announced a package to support small businesses across the country, with rent relief being offered to tenants like cafes, travel agencies, hairdressers, takeaway outlets, real estate agencies and restaurants who have shops within Countdown’s supermarkets or shopping centres.
Small suppliers selling food and other essentials to Countdown will also be paid faster in recognition of the financial impact many small businesses are facing. All eligible small trade and non trade suppliers will be paid on 14 day terms for the foreseeable future.
Managing Director Natalie Davis says small businesses play an important role in New Zealand’s economy and communities, particularly in smaller towns.
“We know that small businesses right across the country are doing it tough at the moment and we want to do our bit to help them out. By paying our small suppliers fast for the products they’re supplying us, and providing rent relief for 54 non-essential businesses within our stores and shopping centres, we hope this can help ease some of the pressure they will be facing in these uncertain times,” around New Zealand,” says Natalie Davis.
“We know the outlook will continue to be extremely tough for many of our retail partners and small businesses in the coming months, and we are committed to helping ensure they can bounce back from this.”
Countdown’s rent relief package will apply to the four week Level 4 alert lockdown and will be reviewed if this is extended.
Countdown supermarket and distribution team to be paid more during lockdown, specials returning as shopping starts to settle
Monday, 30 March: Countdown has announced it will pay its waged supermarket and distribution centre team members a bonus equivalent to an extra 10 per cent per hour worked over the course of the four week Level 4 alert lockdown.
Customers will also start to see specials return in stores nationwide over the course of this week and next as supplies rebuild and the country starts to settle into a calmer shopping pattern.
Supporting our team
All of Countdown’s waged supermarket and distribution team members working during the lockdown will be paid a bonus equivalent to an additional 10 per cent more per hour worked in recognition of the essential service they are providing New Zealanders at this challenging time. Going forward, from September, Countdown team members with 12 months or more service will earn a minimum of the living wage of $21.15 an hour.
Countdown has been paying any of its team who is required to self-isolate due to travel since February, and is also paying any team members whom the government has deemed to be high risk to Covid-19 including those over 70, immune deficient and those with serious chronic illness.
Salaried team in stores and distribution centres are also being paid for their additional hours in recognition they are going above and beyond their normal week.
Countdown Managing Director, Natalie Davis, says paying the team more reflects the essential service they are providing the country.
“Caring for our team is very important to us, and more than ever at the moment, their health, safety and wellbeing is our utmost priority. We have been doing a number of things to support our team as they provide an incredible and essential service to communities across New Zealand.
“As well as paying our supermarket and distribution centre teams more, we are also supporting any of our team members whom the government has deemed high risk so they can be encouraged to stay home and not worry about work.
“We’re also working directly with those in our team who are unable to work during the lockdown period for any reason, such as caring for dependents, to make sure they’re supported with discretionary leave.
“In terms of day to day support, we have increased our team discount for food and groceries from 5 per cent to 10 per cent and we also provide all our frontline and DC team with meals during any of their shifts.
“To help our team respond to the huge demand we have seen, we have also begun a significant recruitment programme. Five-hundred new team members started with us last week. We are pleased to be helping create jobs for New Zealanders at this challenging and unsettling time,” says Natalie Davis.
Countdown is also working closely with a number of customer-focused organisations such as Hospitality NZ and others who have been impacted by Covid-19 and the lockdown.
Specials returning due to more settled customer demand
Over the course of this week and next, Countdown customers will start to see short-term specials and promotions return as the supply chain re-builds and customer demand evens out. Countdown’s long-term Great Price programme remains unchanged, with more than 3400 products across the store at low prices every day.
Managing Director Natalie Davis says while the weekend was busy and online shopping in particular is still experiencing unprecedented demand, the supply chain is beginning to recover from Kiwis’ panic-buying and re-introducing specials is a high priority for the business.
“We’re absolutely committed to providing New Zealanders with good value during this challenging time, and we’re extremely sensitive to making sure we deliver this value right across the country for every community and in every store,” says Natalie Davis.
“This week our customers will see specials return across produce from today, meat and Easter specials from Wednesday, and the following week from 6 April a broader promotional programme will return across the store.
“All 3400 essential products we have on Great Prices across the store have remained the same. This includes our popular 3 for $20 Great Price meat offer. As with any normal week, customers may see produce and meat prices fluctuate up and down due to seasonal or market demand.
“We are feeding more people than we ever have in our history. We made the decision not to go ahead with planned promotions last week because we simply didn’t have the stock in store for our customers. Thankfully that is beginning to repair itself as Kiwis heed the advice to shop normally.
“It’s a fine balance to get right between managing and exacerbating demand, filling trucks with what’s most needed, and ensuring our team can focus on what’s most important and work safely. We’ve had incredible support from our suppliers and customers, and we’re hoping things will settle even more,” says Natalie Davis.
Prioritising customers in need for online delivery
Countdown is prioritising its online delivery service towards customers who are over 70, have serious chronic illness, are self-isolating due to recent travel or have a physical disability that prevents them from shopping in our stores.
More than 16,000 customers have now been accepted for this service. Countdown is working hard to increase delivery window availability for these customers and encourages customers who can shop in stores to do so, to enable online services to be prioritised for those in need.
Countdown supermarkets are open from 9am-8pm, and are less busy after 1pm.
Countdown launches new Priority Assistance initiative to increase grocery home deliveries for vulnerable New Zealanders
Friday, 27 March: Countdown has launched a new service to prioritise the delivery of groceries to the homes of vulnerable customers, and is also working to increase capacity for online delivery shoppers.
Priority Assistance service
Eligible customers can apply for Priority Assistance based on the government’s guidelines around those who are most at risk or vulnerable to Covid-19:
People over 70 years of age
People with chronic illnesses including respiratory conditions, heart conditions, high blood pressure, kidney problems and diabetes. This also includes people undergoing treatment for cancer and blood conditions that make them more vulnerable to Covid-19.
Countdown has also extended Priority Assistance to customers who have disabilities that make it difficult to shop in stores.
Once registered, customers will have access to available dedicated Priority Assistance delivery times.
Countdown’s General Manager Health & Safety, Kiri Hannifin, says supermarkets are an essential service as the country responds to Covid-19, and for some people, online delivery is the only way they will be able to access essential food and groceries.
“This is an incredibly challenging time for all of us as Kiwis, but for some people, there is significantly more risk,” says Kiri Hannifin.
“Our online shopping services have seen unprecedented demand and to help ensure we can provide the essential service we need to, we are prioritising those customers whom the government has identified as most vulnerable at this time.
“We know we can’t reach every single New Zealander, and we also know there are other customers who may not be able to leave their homes to shop. We will try as much as we can to consider these customers on a case by case basis.
“We want to let people know there is still likely to be a delay for groceries because demand is so high at the moment, but our teams are doing everything we can to increase our delivery windows and help give those customers who need it most some peace of mind and support,” says Kiri Hannifin.
Increasing online delivery windows
Countdown is expecting high demand for its Priority Assistance delivery times, and availability cannot be guaranteed. To help open up more delivery windows, the company has also converted its Grey Lynn Central supermarket in Auckland to an online-only hub, and has closed its Albert Street Metro store in Auckland’s CBD as of yesterday to redeploy team members to online shopping services. Countdown is working towards converting another five supermarkets (where alternative stores are located nearby for customers) to online shopping hubs to meet demand over the lockdown period.
“Our teams have been doing everything possible to scale up online and home deliveries to the elderly, people with disabilities or those in mandatory self-isolation. We are continuing to work hard to increase the number of online delivery windows we have available, and prioritising these for vulnerable New Zealanders,” says Kiri Hannifin.
“We ask our regular customers for their patience as we do this, and if you are able to, please shop in our stores so we can help prioritise those Kiwis who need this online service the most.”
Physical distancing in stores
Countdown has rolled out further measures in stores to support the health and wellbeing of team and customers during the lockdown. These include:
Limiting the number of customers in a store at any one time.
Closing some checkouts including in self-service to provide additional space between customers in those areas.
Encouraging customers to maintain at least a trolley length of physical distance between each other at all times, with clear markings at checkout.
Markings in-store to support physical distancing and signage reminding customers and team to wash their hands.
Additional and regular cleaning and hygiene processes, including hand sanitiser at the entrance of all stores for customers, and hand sanitiser available for team and delivery drivers.
Plexiglass screens at registers to help keep team and customers safe.
Kiri Hannifin says, “Our stores are open every day, and we are following the Ministry of Health’s guidance to a tee around steps we can take to keep our team and customers safe.
“If you’re unwell, please stay at home and if you’re in our stores, please keep in mind the government’s recommendations to wash your hands beforehand and afterwards, and to keep your physical distance from others. If it’s possible, it’s best to leave your kids at home.
“The measures we’ve introduced have been well received by our team and customers alike, and we're grateful for the community support on this incredibly important public health effort,” says Kiri Hannifin.
About Countdown Priority Assistance
To apply for Priority Assistance delivery, eligible customers need to complete the form here:
https://www.countdown.co.nz/community-environment/covid-19. Applications cannot be made over the phone.
Eligibility for our Priority Assistance service is based on the government’s guidelines around those who are most at risk:
People over 70 years of age.
People with chronic illnesses including respiratory conditions, heart conditions, high blood pressure, kidney problems and diabetes. This also includes people undergoing treatment for cancer and blood conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19.
People who are in self-isolation after returning from travel or coming into contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19.
We also know that a number of our customers have disabilities that make it difficult to shop in our stores. These customers will also be eligible for our Priority Assistance Service.
We will try as much as we can to consider other customers on a case by case basis
Tuesday 24 March
To be attributed to Kiri Hannifin, General Manager Health & Safety
As New Zealand goes into lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Countdown stores will remain open as an essential service.
From Wednesday, 25 March, all Countdown stores will be introducing additional measures to ensure we can continue to keep our stores teams and customers safe. These include:
Limiting the number of customers in our store at any one time. The number allowed will depend on the size of the store and will be managed via security. The number of people per store will be dependent on the size of a store. This action means customers can maintain physical distance between each other and our team.
Closing every second self service checkout and every second checkout. This will again ensure we are providing enough space for customers to maintain a physical distance from each other and our team.
Customers will need to pack their own groceries, temporarily. This will help speed up the check out process and ensure we can move customers through our stores quickly and efficiently, and keep any queues of people outside our stores moving. It will also limit the handling of items being bought.
Perspex screens at checkout rolling out in stores. These screens will help protect both team and customers from any sneezes or coughs, and will begin being rolled out in our stores from tomorrow.
We are asking customers to use paywave wherever possible. This will help cut down on the handling of bank cards.
These new measures are in addition to the other changes many customers will have seen in place already, including new markings at the checkouts, which provide a physical distancing guide.
We understand that for some people, these changes will be unsettling but we want to do all we can to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. We’re determined to keep providing New Zealanders with access to our stores, while also making sure we’re providing our team and customers a safe and healthy environment to shop in.
Monday 23 March
To be attributed to Natalie Davis, Countdown’s Managing Director
Countdown supports the government’s decision to move to alert level four on Wednesday, and we want to assure our customers that our supermarkets will remain open right through these challenging times.
We are a proud food-producing nation and all New Zealanders can be assured that there is no risk to the food supply. We’re working closely with all our supplier partners and feeding the local market is collectively our first priority.
We are prioritising essential products to get into our stores over other, non-essential products. We have every truck on the road possible, and every team member possible working to support our stores and online services.
We repeat our earlier calls to please not panic, and to shop normally. There is no need to stock up and for every extra item you buy, someone else goes without. When customers stockpile and buy more than they need, it creates a bottleneck in the supply chain that takes time to work through and leaves gaps on the shelves. This isn’t fair for other New Zealanders and there’s no need - we will remain open as we always have and there will always be food.
Our stores will be open each day and we will be putting in place every possible measure to help keep our customers, team and the wider community safe. This means people will see some changes in our stores.
Customers should use their trolley as a distance guide and follow new floor markings, which will be in place from midday tomorrow, at checkouts to maintain distance. We’ll also be putting up posters across the store to provide our customers and teams helpful tips to minimise physical contact with others.
Other recommendations include using Paywave where possible and maintaining strict hand-washing routines prior to coming into our stores. We will also continue our strict hygiene processes and cleaning in stores.
We are working on ways to ensure that older and vulnerable customers can get the help they need. We are currently prioritising online delivery windows for existing online shopping customers over 70, and are working hard to expand this to other vulnerable customers who need this service for health reasons or because they are unable to get into our stores.
Our team is continuing to put amazing energy and effort into providing food and groceries for New Zealanders right across the country, and they’re working incredibly hard under difficult circumstances. Please continue to be kind to them. We thank our customers for their ongoing patience and support as we work through these challenging times together. We’ve had some wonderful feedback and acts of kindness in our stores and we are incredibly appreciative of your support.
For information and updates: https://www.countdown.co.nz/covid19update
Countdown introduces limits and changes store hours across network to help slow demand
20 March 2020: In light of the unprecedented and continued level of demand being seen in stores, Countdown has today placed a temporary limit on all products, excluding produce and serviced deli, and reduced store trading hours nationwide.
From today, there is a limit of two similar items per customer visit across all Countdown stores and online shopping services, with the exception of produce and serviced deli. Baby food (pouches, tins and jars) will have a limit of six. This means, for example, customers will only be able to buy a maximum of two packs of toilet paper, two packs of mince, two packets of chicken, two loaves of bread, two cans of baked beans etc.
All Countdown stores will close tonight at 9pm and from tomorrow (Saturday, 21 March), all stores and online shopping services will trade from 9am to 8pm across the country.
Countdown Managing Director, Natalie Davis, says the message to New Zealand remains the same - we are not running out of food.
“We have plenty of food in our supply chain, however we simply cannot get it through the network fast enough if Kiwis don’t slow down their shopping. This is the only way we can try to manage demand,” says Natalie Davis.
“While this may be frustrating or inconvenient for some customers, we need to provide our team with the time and ability they need to get as much product on shelf as possible during this time of extraordinary demand. If the store is too busy, we will be managing the number of people who can be in our stores at any one time for the safety and wellbeing of our team and other customers.
“We ask all New Zealanders to please respect these limits and only buy what they need to help as many Kiwis as possible access food and other groceries.
“We have every truck on the road possible, and every team member possible working to support our stores and online services, and we’re hiring more. Every truck that has to go out full of toilet paper means that regular supermarket supplies can’t get through. We’re also working on ways to ensure that customers who need a bit more assistance can get the help they need in our stores and online.
“We would ask all our customers to continue to be kind, consider others and consider what you’ve got in your pantry already.
“Our teams continue to work tirelessly under difficult circumstances, so we ask that they are treated kindly and respectfully. We thank our customers for their continued patience and support as together we work through these challenging times together,” says Natalie Davis.For regular updates, please visit https://www.countdown.co.nz/community-environment/covid-19
To be attributed to Kiri Hannifin, Countdown’s General Manager Health & Safety:
Thursday 19 March
Kiwis are all about fairness and at Countdown we want to make sure that when people are shopping in our stores and online, they only buy what they need. To help, we’ve introduced limits on some items to help make sure there’s some for everyone.
At the moment, for some products, we’re selling triple the amount we would normally sell in a week. And while we make things like toilet paper right here in New Zealand, we simply can’t get it on our shelves quick enough if everyone is going to continue to buy like they are currently. What we’re asking is for customers to think about how much food and other essentials they really need. We’re big believers that a little kindness goes a long way, and we want to make sure that there are food and groceries available for everyone, and especially those who might be unable or find it hard to go into a store.
Our teams and suppliers are working around the clock to meet the unprecedented demand we are currently seeing. We want to assure New Zealanders that our supply chain is strong - that we have enough food in this plentiful country - but we need people to shop as they would normally, rather than stockpile.
As the situation continues to evolve, we’ll continue to monitor products and put measures in place to make sure we can meet the needs of all New Zealanders.
At the moment we have a limit of two per customer on the following items:
Disinfectant and household cleaners
Our teams are working incredibly hard under difficult circumstances. Please be kind to them, and each other. We thank our customers for their continued patience and support as we work through these challenging times together.
For information and updates: https://www.countdown.co.nz/covid19update
Wednesday 18 March
We’re continuing to manage the increased customer demand we’re seeing in our stores, but we also need customers to remember that when they buy more than they need, others will go without that day. We’d strongly encourage customers to shop as they normally would, this includes shopping in-store if you don’t need to shop online, as well as being thoughtful of others to ensure that all New Zealanders have access to the food and products they need.
This is a constantly changing situation, which we’ll of course continue to monitor, but the main message to New Zealanders is that there is no need to panic about food and groceries.
We’re in contact with a range of agencies and our charity partners around how best to support our elderly and vulnerable customers. We’ll be monitoring this in the days and weeks ahead to ensure we are providing more support where it is needed.
Safety and hygiene remains the priority at Countdown in Level 2, supermarkets back to regular opening hours and product limits lifted 12 May 2020: As the country moves to Alert Level 2 on Thursday, Countdown supermarkets around the country will go back to their regular opening times and all limits on products will be removed. Countdown’s physical distancing and strict hygiene measures will stay in place, with stores continuing to limit the number of customers in stores at any one time. Customers will still be encouraged to shop alone where possible. General Manager of Health and Safety, Kiri Hannifin, says the business is looking forward to welcoming customers back to their regular routines while still making sure that safe shopping is a priority for both Countdown’s team and customers. “Kiwis should be very proud of the incredible job we have done in getting New Zealand to Level 2, but we absolutely must remain vigilant when it comes to physical distancing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” says Kiri Hannifin. “While we all have more freedom, we also have responsibility to help maintain physical distancing from other shoppers and our team members when you’re shopping in Countdown stores. This may mean from time to time you may need to queue. We thank Kiwis in advance for their patience and for working with us to maintain a safe environment.” From Thursday, all Countdown stores will go back to their pre-lockdown opening times, all product limits will be lifted, popular services like fresh flowers and Lotto will be back, and Countdown’s Albert Street Metro (Auckland), Cable Car Lane (Wellington) and Northwest (Auckland) stores are re-opening to welcome back customers. Countdown Moorhouse (Christchurch) will re-open on Monday 18 May. The Alert Level 2 changes also mean the priority shopping hour for emergency workers and medical personnel will no longer be needed. “The priority shopping hour was put in place during the lockdown to ensure our amazing, hard-working, frontline emergency workers and medical personnel could buy what they needed before the store opened to the public. With the move to Level 2, and stores now open for longer, this priority hour is no longer needed. We’ll review this if anything changes in the future,” says Kiri Hannifin. “We know our customers are pretty keen to get back to their usual routines as soon as possible. By reverting back to our original opening hours, taking limits off products in our stores, and bringing back other popular services, we can help make things feel a bit more normal at the supermarket. It’s great to be a little more normal but please continue to shop safely, shop alone wherever you can and keep your distance.” Ends