Chch retailers resilient but struggling

By Ben Chapman-Smith

The Re:START Mall in central Christchurch. Statistics New Zealand will offer a picture next week of how Christchurch’s retail sector fared in the first quarter of 2012. Photo / Simon Baker
The Re:START Mall in central Christchurch. Statistics New Zealand will offer a picture next week of how Christchurch’s retail sector fared in the first quarter of 2012. Photo / Simon Baker

Many retail businesses in Christchurch are still struggling to get on their feet as they wait on earthquake insurance claims and the rebuild to kick in, says business group Recover Canterbury.

Statistics New Zealand will next week release figures offering a snapshot of how well Christchurch's retail sector fared in the first quarter of 2012.

Its first Christchurch Retail Trade Indicator, for the December 2012 quarter, illustrated surprising "resilience" shown by the retail trade in the city.

Over a year since the February 22 quake which killed 182 people and caused widespread destruction to the city, things had slowed down a bit for the retail sector, said Pip Tschudin, spokesperson for Recover Canterbury.

"Overall, our pick is that we're probably a bit behind last year in our retail sector as a whole.

"Some businesses will be doing well but from the businesses we're talking to, there are many who are still struggling."

Recover Canterbury was established after the February 22 quake to help accelerate business recovery and prepare businesses for future growth.

It has coordinated a number of initiatives to kick start the recovery, including discounted advertising packages on offer to Christchurch businesses, a small business grant, and Canterbury Business Recovery Trust awards.

Businesses have shown amazing resilience but were limited by pending insurance claims, ongoing infrastructural work and a delay in the overall rebuild, Tschudin said.

"There is light at the end of the tunnel but now there are still some businesses that need help to get through the next while.

"There are a number of things that need to happen to see that sector get going again."

Immediately following the quake, retail trade activity dropped 4.2 per cent in the March 2011 quarter but rebounded in the months after.

The June 2011 quarter saw a 'bounce-back' effect, with growth of 8.1 per cent.

The September and December 2011 quarters maintained most of the high level reached in the June quarter, but failed to experience growth in line with the national rise of 4.2 per cent.

Statistics New Zealand's Christchurch Retail Trade Indicator for the March 2012 quarter is out June 28.

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