Editorial: Tauranga retailers need our support

By Scott Inglis


These are tough times and I feel sorry for small retailers in the Bay.

They have been hit hard by a combination of the recession and a move towards more people buying online.

When I first read the latest Paymark retail spending figures I thought perhaps there was some hope.

In June last year, retail consumers spent $220.4 million. Last month, this had risen to $227 million - a rise of $6.6 million.

This is good news but unfortunately not all retailers are enjoying a slice of the extra action. In today's edition we speak to some who say it's still tough as ever.

Bill Campbell, who owns Fancy That, says he is holding his own this winter but the past year has been one of the worst. But at Murray Watts MansWorld, things are "good".

Mount Mainstreet manager Leanne Brown is upbeat, saying there will always be a mixed response from retailers but overall things look promising.

Down on The Strand, some retailers are feeling the pain over the loss of car parking caused by the Tauranga waterfront development. One says trade is down 30 per cent since work began.

As reported in the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend this month, the first stage of the $625,000 scheme, which is replacing two carparks with lawn areas suitable for outdoor events, is nearly finished.

Some businesses say the resultant loss of 169 parking spaces has hit trade hard.

But others claim the development will attract greater customer numbers in the future and any trading issues are short-term.

The Paymark figures and Strand concerns follow a report in May which revealed more people are buying online.

Almost half of New Zealand adults shop online and are buying more often, according to the Nielsen Online Retail Report.

The number of online shoppers aged 18 and over has reached more than 1.6 million, or 49 per cent - an increase of 122,000 on the previous year and more than double since 2004.

This has put retailers under further pressure, and forced some to rethink their marketing strategy - including looking at selling on the web.

I have spoken to a number of people who are doing more online shopping. They say it's cheaper and easier.

I'm not a big shopper but if I want to buy something, I prefer to go to a shop and see the goods for myself, talk to someone who knows about their products and enjoy the experience.

I'd rather do that, perhaps combined with lunch or a coffee, than sit at my screen and do it. It is less clinical.

But whether it is in person or on the internet, it is important we, as a community, support local businesses because they are part of the city's heart.

They employ people, support other businesses and contribute to the local economy.

Having said that, it's critical these businesses ensure their products are of good quality and customer service is second-to-none. I've been in a few stores where the service has been less than acceptable.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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