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Tourism businesses pivot into nationwide personal shopping service

Necessity really is the mother of invention for New Zealand's latest start-up company, which takes one problem caused by the coronavirus lockdown and uses it to solve another.

ToMyDoor is a personal shopping service for Kiwis who want their shopping delivered to their front door.

In the current environment it is for people in lockdown, self-isolation or for those who don’t want to leave home to go to the supermarket or pharmacy while the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the globe.

The clever bit?

The personal shoppers are drivers who would normally be ferrying tourists around New Zealand's numerous attractions and activities.

Headfirst Travel owners Evan Bloomfield and Ralph Davies struck on the innovative idea in a brainstorming session, after realising New Zealand's celebrated tourism industry would be in dire straits for the foreseeable future.

"When the Government announced on March 14 that all travellers arriving in New Zealand would have to self-isolate for 14 days and cruise ships were banned until the end of June, we knew we were in for some tough times," Bloomfield says.

"To suddenly have zero customers was pretty sobering.

"But we also knew we have a dedicated, passionate group of permanent employees, who want to help their local communities in a time of need. We have a fleet of vehicles in five centres around the country, so we looked at ways to pivot the business to support those communities."

On ToMyDoor's website, customers can enter a list of items they need and place an order. A personal shopper / driver will purchase the items from a local store and deliver them to the customer's door.

Customers receive a SMS and email 30 minutes before the goods are delivered and another one on delivery.

Many supermarkets offer a delivery service, but since the beginning of the lockdown at midnight, Wednesday, March 25, it has become increasingly difficult to snag a delivery slot. ToMyDoor is promising same day delivery for orders placed before 10am.

Operating at this stage in Queenstown, Dunedin, Oamaru, Rotorua and Auckland central, they plan to reach the rest of New Zealand by partnering with other tourism operators who can deliver on behalf of people. Each shopper / driver wears their own existing branded uniform and travels in their own branded vehicle.

Unlike some delivery services, this means all shoppers are already trusted employees of the passenger transport companies. They all have police background checks, appropriate driver licences and have been given extra training.

Nomad Safaris in Queenstown has already come on board.

"We explained the idea to David Gatward-Ferguson at Nomad Safaris and he instantly got it. He texted five minutes later to say he had three drivers keen to give it a go. They were delivering the next day," Ralph says.

Evan and Ralph have coordinated closely with the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment and the Ministry of Transport, which has confirmed ToMyDoor is providing an essential service. It is supported by the government Business Continuity Package and has had to think smart to keep costs to a minimum in start-up mode.

"In Level 3 and 4 Alert status we are delivering essential items – non pre-cooked food, medicines and prescriptions," adds Ralph.

ToMyDoor's staff will follow the Government's COVID-19 best practice guidelines when providing this essential service. Orders are made online or by phone. All payments are made online with credit card, debit card or online banking, charged on delivery.

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