Summary Supermarkets come under the spotlight again on Thursday as the Commerce Commission begins public hearings. Retailers outside NZ’s covid borders are urging early Christmas shopping in case of infection leakage and wider lockdowns.

Grocery pains The Commerce Commission's inquiry into the nation's supermarkets steps up a gear when public hearings begin today. The regulator's draft report found competition isn't working for consumers, saying profitability is materially higher than what would be expected in a competitive market. The dominant duo of Foodstuffs and Countdown have accepted some changes are warranted, but pushed back at the suggestion they're extracting excessive profits.

Airport update Auckland Airport, which has mandated staff vaccination, holds its virtual annual shareholders' meeting today. It will be the last for departing CEO Adrian Littlewood, who will be succeeded by the company’s first female CEO, Carrie Hurihanganui.

Hilton jabs While many of Auckland’s hotels remain closed, Auckland’s Hilton Hotel is opening up for its own vaccination event today, encouraging central city and Princes Wharf residents to come for first or second jabs. The event will be held in its open-sided seaside exhibition space, partnering with Auckland City Pharmacy. People lining up for jabs will be offered a free coffee, with the first 100 also receiving a free keep cup.

Cannabis listing Greenfern, a cannabis, therapeutics and wellness company, lists on the NZX today. The company has already raised $5.8 million from crowdfunding, with some of the money used to purchase a hydroelectric power station near its Taranaki farm. Greenfern aims to be a leading New Zealand producer and distributor of medicinal cannabis and hemp products, and hemp-based food and health care products.

Early Christmas Retailers outside Auckland and the Waikato are urging shoppers to get in early for Christmas buying, in case of another lockdown. Retailers struggling with supply, and fearful of covid spreading past the current containment borders, have put Christmas stock out early this year.

KiwiRail strike vote KiwiRail workers are voting on rare strike action which, if it occurs, will likely take place during one of the busiest times of the year for freight movements. It would also be the first railway workers' strike affecting the national freight network in decades, BusinessDesk understands. The Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) has issued postal ballots to about 2,500 members – train drivers, mechanics and other KiwiRail workers – to vote on strike action. The union has asked for an 8% increase to the total payroll figure after agreeing to a nil rise last year. 

Cloud move The accelerated move away from ageing IT infrastructure to cloud platforms and upgrading cybersecurity for the services that can’t be run from the cloud now has to be the priority for every NZ organisation. We are still awaiting the outcome of the “full, independent inquiry” into a May ransomware attack that took out the Waikato district health board’s (DHB) systems for weeks, forcing surgeries to be postponed or moved to other hospitals. It won’t make for pleasant reading. Our health sector’s IT systems are notoriously complex and outdated, Peter Griffin says.

Vaccinated guests Auckland’s Hotel Britomart and its luxury counterpart The Landing in the Bay of Islands will only accept vaccinated guests, including to its restaurant Kingi. Other venues are waiting for government mandates before imposing similar restrictions. Western Australia has mandated vaccinations for about 75% of workers, including teachers and healthcare, freight and retail staff.

Intriguing history The illegal export overseas of a rare Taranaki epa panel of carvings meant for pataka, or storehouses, in the 1970s resulted in worldwide legislation changes to safeguard art. The Motonui epa, now exhibited at Taranaki’s Puke Ariki museum, has an intriguing history. It was only discovered after its Italian owner, who bought it at auction after it was smuggled out of NZ, had to sell a number of artworks to cover a ransom he had to pay after his daughter was abducted. Its discovery led to a landmark court case taken by NZ to return the art, which NZ lost.

Drinks shortages Australian liquor chain Dan Murphy’s has warned some of Australia’s favourite overseas-produced drinks may not be on its shelves in coming months as global panic buying is causing shortages. With many public drinking venues shut or people fearful of going out in public, drinking at home is becoming more popular around the world. Dan Muphy’s has turned to locally-produced drinks to fill empty spots on its shelves.

Melbourne reopens Melbournians emerge from lockdown tonight, as Melbourne reaches 70% vaccination rates for those aged over 16. The new environment still means no one can travel between regional Victoria and the city, but limited groups of people will be able to meet in homes, visit cafes and bars, and meet for weddings and funerals.

Child vaccinations The US is preparing to vaccinate millions of children aged 5 to 11, ahead of potential approval in early November. More than 100 children’s hospitals, doctors’ offices, pharmacies and even schools are likely to be used. The plan depends on whether the US Food and Drug Administration more widely approves the Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE's vaccine.

Markets update British American Tobacco helped lead the UK’s FTSE 100 0.1% higher, along with FMCG companies Diageo and Unilever. A slide in mining companies stopped the index from going any higher. The pan-European Stoxx 600 index rose 0.3%  higher, buoyed by rises in oil stocks and Swiss food giant Nestle. The rise was capped by falls caused by disappointing sales figures from Gucci owner Kering, and chip-making supplier ASML Holdings. In the US, the Dow Jones briefly hit a new all-time high and S&P 500 almost reached its record high, rising 0.4% and 0.5% respectively in early afternoon trading. The jump is driven by third-quarter earnings that exceeded expectations. Bitcoin hit a new all-time high of $66,893.