New Zealand (like Australia) had things that really helped us early on. Some were natural – we are an island nation with a limited number of entry points, so the government’s early border restrictions (then ultimately closing to all but returning expats) stopped the mass importation of the virus from overseas. Therefore, when our strict lockdown came into effect we were able to drastically reduce the spread of the cases we had in the country. We also have a well-respected leader, who had already developed a high level of trust with the public after the way she handled the Christchurch mass shooting & the Whakaari/White Island eruption. She took a very clear leadership position when it came to the “people” side of things, but also presented a very small team of experts and she allowed them to lead in their individual areas of expertise – health, economy, policing, etc. New Zealanders generally like to stretch boundaries and rules, but in this case, 99.9% of the country acted quickly and decisively to work together to solve the problem.
In terms of the local FMCG industry, again our size and market concentration helped, but that is not to understate the incredible response of everyone involved. Most businesses redirected all their efforts into maintaining stock weight on shelf and servicing the incredible surge in demand. Whilst suppliers focused on supply, retailers worked on how to manage the shopping process to accommodate social distancing.
New Zealand restrictions were very severe; no fast food at all, no independent liquor stores, hardware, pet or non-essential retail. Online sales were only allowed for essential services (food, pharmacy and liquor) so supermarkets had to pick up the slack on all retail activity – feeding 5 million people with around 1,000 large and small stores.
This led to a flurry on innovation – screening was erected at all checkouts, electronic payment was mandatory, apps were developed so you could sit in your car and get a text when it was your turn to enter the store, etc.
Essentially everyone placed all effort into feeding the nation as safely as possible. Supermarkets temporarily increased the wages of all their workers by 10% for the duration of the lockdown.