Countdown bringing back specials, Foodstuffs to pay staff more

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 30 Mar 2020, 12:14PM
Supermarkets are under scrutiny during the coronavirus lockdown. (Photo / File)
Supermarkets are under scrutiny during the coronavirus lockdown. (Photo / File)

Countdown bringing back specials, Foodstuffs to pay staff more

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 30 Mar 2020, 12:14PM

Supermarket giant Countdown is bringing back special deals for customers after widespread claims of price gouging during the lockdown.

The company says customers will "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".

The announcement from Countdown came this morning, a day after New Zealand had its first Covid-19 related death.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said yesterday that she was aware of public concern and discussion on social media about price increases at supermarkets during the lockdown.

Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi was keeping a close eye on these concerns, she said.

The number of cases of Covid-19 had reached 514, as of Yesterday, following an increase of 63 since Saturday.

Short-term special and promotions would start returning to Countdown stores because the supply-chain was rebuilding and customer demand evened out.

Supermarkets were busy over the weekend but the impact of Kiwis panic-buying was starting to mend, Countdown managing director Natalie Davis said.

"We are feeding more people than we ever have in our history," Davis said.

"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."

In recognition of the essential service they were providing the country, Countdown staff would receive an increased wage.

In addition to the extra 10 per cent per hour worked over the alert level 4 lockdown, staff with 12 months or more service would earn a minimum of the living wage of $21.25 an hour from September onwards.

The supermarket had also been paying any of its team who was required to self-isolate since February, including those deemed high risk by the Government.

"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," Davis said. The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

Foodstuffs also increasing pay

Meanwhile rival Foodstuffs says staff working through the coronavirus lockdown period are also being rewarded and thanked with a pay rise.

Foodstuffs has announced a 10 per cent pay allowance on top of the normal pay cheque for any worker at a Pak'nSave, New World or Four Square outlet working through the month-long Covid-19 lockdown.

All waged front-line, distribution and transport staff nationwide will get the allowance over the next four weeks.

"This is in recognition of their willingness to ensure New Zealanders' grocery needs are met and for the tireless commitment they continue to show," a statement said.

Any staff member considered to be medically certified vulnerable - and therefore must self-isolate, rendering them unable to work - will also be fully paid during this period.

Foodstuffs North Island chief executive, Chris Quinn, said: "We are operating in extraordinary times and as the situation evolves, we learn and determine more about what we can do next as a business to support our people and New Zealand.

"We've been totally focused on keeping shelves full and ensuring our customers and teams are safe.

"Now that we have a better handle on these things, it's time to clear up how we're supporting our committed and essential team members."


The Government has promised the public that there will continue to be a steady supply of food and groceries at all times while the country is in a state of emergency level 4 alert.

The lead-up to alert level 4 saw members of the public turning up to supermarkets around the country in huge crowds and again, authorities called on people not to panic buy.

Supermarkets have since changed opening times, introduced customer limits in stores at any given time and hired more staff to help with the demand, which continues still.

Foodstuffs South Island chief Steve Anderson described staff working throughout this period and all staff as "the mainstay" of their business.

"This is an historic period for New Zealand and we are extremely grateful to our teammates who come to work every day to serve New Zealanders during this trying time.

"They deserve extra recognition for their commitment and we're proud to give it to them."