Spending up but retailers cautious

By Kiri Gillespie

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Some Tauranga retailers say times are still tough - despite new figures showing growth of $6.6 million in the Bay of Plenty's retail spending.

New Paymark figures, released yesterday, show the Bay of Plenty region experienced a 3 per cent increase in retail spend, from $220.4 million in June 2011 to $227 million in June 2012.

Fancy That owner Bill Campbell said they were "holding their own" so far this winter but the past year had been one of the worst.

Mr Campbell recently expanded the Fancy That souvenir and gift shop with Fancy This, an adjoining gift store on Red Square.

"We have been here four years and this is probably the hardest it has been in all of the years we've been in business in Tauranga," he said.

Mr Campbell said there were fewer people in town because of free parking at suburban shopping centres, and retailers were unable to run a free shuttle for cruise ship passengers last season as they had in other years.

The Paymark figures had not flowed through, Mr Campbell said.

Laurie Young's Menswear was closing this week after 46 years.

Laurie Young said retail spending took a dive in 2007 and retailers like himself had still not come out of it.

"It's hard. The big units [larger nationwide chain stores] create the shopping hours ... you ask people down the street and they say 'yes, we love seven-day-a-week shopping'.

"But someone's paying for it. Families are paying for it. Mums and dads aren't home with the kids any more because they are working all the time."

Mr Young said he was closing down because he wanted more time to himself but he said CBD businesses were struggling.

"Town itself is getting quieter and quieter. We are losing a lot of entertainment and parking."

Across the road sit two empty stores and a women's clothing store is about to close down.

Other store owners in Willow St, who did not want to be identified, said they were surprised at the growth figures because their experience was not positive.

Less than 100m away at Murray Watts MansWorld things were "good".

Murray Watts said the 3 per cent growth was a reasonable representation of business for him.

"We have a few gaps in town like every other town in the world but they all tend to be lumped in to the same reasons [for closing down] but sometimes people just move on," he said.

Mr Watts said people appeared to be tired of being cautious in their retail spend.

Annette Ball, from Mount Maunganui store The Gilded Edge, said she had noticed customers were "less cautious".

"We used to get wedding gifts for $100 but now they are selling for $50-$60."

Ms Ball said she believed there was more foot traffic as well.

Mount Mainstreet manager Leanne Brown said there would always be a mixed response from retailers, but overall it was a promising outlook.

Fraser Cove shopping centre manager Marie Mischewski said she was still waiting on figures from the centre's 30 stores but she believed they were performing well.

A Cotton On megastore - incorporating the children's and underwear branches of the brand - opened at the centre three months ago, which showed "real confidence" in the future, Ms Mischewski said.

No one from Bayfair Shopping Centre or Downtown Tauranga could be contacted yesterday.

A spokeswoman for Fashion Island shopping centre declined to comment.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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