After 12 weeks of lockdown, Hibiscus Coast retailers were keeping their fingers crossed for a return to near-normality this week, with shops, libraries and public facilities set to reopen on Wednesday, November 10.
Business associations and retailers were cautiously optimistic after the Government’s announcement last week, excited to be able to welcome customers in-store again, though with some regrets that such businesses as hospitality and hairdressing still wouldn’t be joining them.
Destination Ōrewa manager Hellen Wilkins said while the situation remained frustrating for many, shopkeepers would be relishing the level change, and rightly so.
“Good on them,” she said. “A lot of retailers are hoping for an excellent summer and they’ve been putting their heart and soul into keeping things going.
“This lockdown has been twice as long, and they’re holding out for a massive jump in business as soon as anything reopens.
“Christmas is coming – let’s hope everyone comes out to support our local shops.”
Business Whangaparāoa activator Sarah Carr said while it was disappointing that not everything would be reopening straight away, there was also a degree of caution around the chances of Covid spreading faster.
“You want people to open up, but you don’t want Covid to spread,” she said. “But it’s going to happen anyway, so we need to get those vaccine rates up.”
She said association members had remained surprisingly positive, despite the length and severity of lockdown, and had shown impressive innovation in keeping their businesses going.
“People knew what to expect and instead of being uncertain about what to do, had a tried and tested model and have been improving on that. There’s been quite a bit of imagination brought into doing things,” she said.
Hellen Wilkins agreed, saying fashion and homeware stores had been changing their window displays almost daily to show off their stock and keep people interested. One of those was Carol Sommerville, who owns the Main Street clothing store on Hibiscus Coast Highway.
“The shop is shut, but I’ve been putting new products around. It’s lovely because people take notice, and it’s amazing how much they appreciate it,” she said. “People have been depressed and angry, so it’s to give them something stimulating to look at.”
She said she was relieved that reopening was on the cards at last, and would be opening on Wednesday morning.
“We’re just sick of being locked up,” she said.
Meanwhile, Silverdale Business coordinator Tasha Maloney remained cautious.
“Everyone is quiet,” she said. “They are not sure if it will actually happen and waiting for the announcement on Monday.”
As retail reopens, customers will need to wear masks. QR codes or books to sign will be provided and numbers may be restricted in-store to ensure physical distancing is possible. Businesses not subject to a vaccination mandate (such as general retail) will soon have an assessment process they can follow to determine if their work needs to be done by vaccinated people. Government is consulting on this assessment process, and could pass legislation by the end of this month. It will cover things such as whether a workplace involves interaction with customers. This assessment will build on guidance provided by WorkSafe, which businesses can already follow.
Chief executive of Retail NZ, Greg Harford, says when vaccination certificates are introduced, they won’t be required for general retail.