Like any other retail outlet, Eastgate Op Shop had to shut its doors when the COVID-19 lockdown took hold. The unexpected silver lining of the closure was that it gave staff time to launch a long-held plan—an online store.

For 18 years the op shop has served Eastgate Christian Centre’s Pakuranga, East Auckland, neighbourhood by providing affordable furniture, clothing and bric-a-brac. Profits from the business support the church’s ministries locally and overseas. A dedicated ‘donating container’ sits alongside its 1500m2 store, containing furniture set aside specifically to give to families experiencing hardship. Free clothing is given to those in need, and a prison librarian comes once a month to choose books for prisoners, also at no charge. 

When New Zealand’s COVID-19 alert level three came into being, most shops were still not permitted to open but they were allowed to trade online. Eastgate Op Shop staff realised it was the opportune time to create their web‑based store.

“We had one week to get everything up and running. It was mostly furniture and little bits of bric-a-brac because the variety is too huge to put everything online,” says Jacques Van Staden, the op shop’s manager. 

Staff made contactless deliveries and also had a contactless pickup area in their car park. During the closure they also did a few quotes for WINZ, with one large delivery to a woman who had no furniture in her new house in Wellsford, more than 90km away.

Jacques says the online store will remain even when the country goes to alert level one, especially for people from the farthest ends of Auckland’s stretched-out region. 

“I think most people’s shopping habits will change. People will be a bit more cautious about going out and buying stuff and being in the public. Most of the bigger items are so easy to buy online and get delivered to your house. 

“But then we will still get those regulars who come and spend two or three hours in the store, shopping and getting all the small treasures.”

Whether online or in person, Jacques has no doubt that the op shop serves a greater purpose than just making money.

“The one thing I say to our staff in the morning is that we are here to do the Lord’s work. Just by having a chat to some of our customers who come in or listening to some of their problems, in some ways that is a good ministry for us, to just give back and lend a hand. The feeling you get from that you can’t really get at any other workplace. We are so blessed to be part of this organisation.”