COVID-19 Countdown media statements

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 uniformed 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 service worker wearing their uniform, or any DHB, medical centre or medical professional 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: 

    • Flour

    • Rice - Bags

    • Dry Pasta

    • Canned baked beans & spaghetti

    • UHT Milk

    • Frozen Vegetables

    • Toilet Paper

    • Paper Towel

    • Personal Wash

    • Hand Sanitiser

    • Paracetamol

    • Household Cleaner

    • Feminine Hygiene

    • Baby Formula

  • All other items will have a limit of six. 

ENDS

 

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.

ENDS

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. 

ENDS

 

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

ENDS

 

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.

ENDS

 

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

ENDS

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  
ENDS

 

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:

  • Hand sanitiser

  • Personal wash

  • Panadol/ paracetamol 

  • Antibacterial wipes

  • Disinfectant and household cleaners

  • Toilet paper

  • Paper towels

  • Serviettes

  • Facial tissues

  • Pasta

  • Rice

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. 

| Keywords: