Richard Moore: Buy locally to save jobs

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I was having a lovely Sunday morning. The tea was hot, so were the fruit muffins and the Wallabies had scored a one point win in a tough encounter against the Welsh.

Yes it was drizzling a bit in Papamoa by the sea, but chances were it would fine up enough for a later fast walk along the sands.

Then I turned to the paper's business section and the joy of the morning was dimmed by gloomy predictions of how the retail sector would go in the next wee while.

Now retail is very important for New Zealand because it is a massive employer with more than 267,000 people working in the sector.

That's about one in 12 Kiwis and a huge number of them are young and female with the two largest groups between 15-19 and 20-24 years old.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

In addition, a Telecom survey in 2010 showed there were more than 460,000 small businesses in this country - 97 per cent of all businesses - and 62 per cent of those have between one and five staff.

The reason those figures are very important is they show how key a strong retail and small business sector is to New Zealand. If one falls then the other is badly hit and we spiral down into massive job losses.

That's why the article almost put me off my brekkie, because it said even well-run enterprises that had survived the recession were now falling over because no-one was spending.

There was no retail bounce back in consumer confidence and so those employers who had hung on through some of the toughest economic times we've ever had, are now starting to give up.

Let's put a personal perspective on this.

When living in Melbourne I would regularly fly up to Sydney on business.

I'd have my meetings then would religiously go down to Circular Quay and hop on a ferry across that stunning harbour to Manly. Then I'd sail back and take a walk up to the historic Rocks area.

Inside one of those colonial buildings near the water was a fabulous traditional puppet shop where I would wander through and pick out a carved wooden figure.

It was a wonderful shop with hundreds of string puppets hanging from the ceiling and it conjured up images of Geppetto at his workbench.

On one trip I cruised into the Rocks and discovered, to my horror, that the puppet shop was no more. It had gone.

That is going to be happening in Tauranga.

Retailers here have had it worse than most centres in New Zealand for a variety of reasons.

One is the local economy is precarious with low wages and high costs, particularly for shop rents and housing.

Secondly people are not only being more cautious with spending their money, but they are now into online shopping and buying things only on sale.

Those two last ones are the biggest killers of small retail shops.

Online sellers don't have to pay GST or pay rent. Neither do they employ people.

Shop and restaurant margins are very thin and even a 10 per cent discount can eat into their survivability. Someone was telling me the other day that many diners in Auckland won't eat out without a voucher giving them something free.

But customers keep demanding discounts and that mentality will not only close shops and eateries, but also stop people risking starting up new businesses.

Industry experts predict it is only going to get worse.

Last month there were twice as many businesses going into liquidation than in May the previous year.

That means really bad news for the economy as retail jobs are in danger of being slashed.

While I have certainly reduced my spending levels in recent months I have also been mindful of trying to keep open places I enjoy eating in, or buying from.

My local pizzeria, the bookstore, my mechanic, my favoured Japanese restaurant and the fine dining places owned by friends.

So instead of buying online - buy from the Bay.

Shopkeepers are part of our community and we should be supporting them, not saving $5 or $10 buying from some faceless individual who gives no customer service, advice or service guarantee. And who doesn't spend their earnings back in our region.

Unless we all support our local retailers then they will go the way of the puppet store and with them the chances of our young folk finding jobs.

richard@richardmoore.com

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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