Rotorua book store's parting shot at council

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Ailsa and Neal Hawes are closing up after 20 years in business.
Ailsa and Neal Hawes are closing up after 20 years in business.

The Rotorua District Council has allowed malls to develop at the expense of downtown Rotorua, says a retailer who's about to shut up shop.

But the council says Rotorua is lucky to have large stores on the edge of the central area and not in out-of-town locations.

Second-hand bookshop Idle Hour Book Inn will close on Monday after 20 years in Eruera St.

Retiring owners Neal and Ailsa Hawes said they'd had a pretty good run but there had been disappointments, primarily what Mr Hawes called the "demise of the CBD".

When they set up shop in 1994, the central business district (CBD) was "humming", Mr Hawes said. Then came the Rotorua Central Mall, which the council had told him would contain only large "big box" businesses, he said.

"It is to our council's eternal shame that they have allowed the development of the [Central] mall and other satellite developments, at the expense of the CBD," he said.

"These developments have been allowed [indeed encouraged] by council to develop these sites far beyond the original promise of 'big box' only. The CBD is the poorer for it."

Council economic and regulatory services group manager Mark Rawson said the original Rotorua Central Mall concept was for a mix of "big box" stores and some smaller retail outlets.

"Rotorua is fortunate to have these large stores located right on the edge of the CBD and not in out-of-town locations such as in cities like Hamilton."

He said the economic downturn and changing retail trends were regularly cited as factors impacting on CBDs across New Zealand.

"So-called satellite retail developments are a direct response to market demand in those locations."

Mr Hawes' other disappointment was the continued ban on Easter trading, which he said hurt the whole city.

Those "beefs" aside, the Haweses had enjoyed their time running Idle Hour.

The business had been on the market about 12 months, with no success, Mr Hawes said.

"We'd rather have seen someone take it over and continue," he said. "It just didn't happen."

He said some long-time customers had been close to tears at the news they were closing. That went both ways.

"There could be a lumpy throat or two on Monday," Mr Hawes admitted.

All books are currently 75 per cent off and more than 10,000 are expected to remain. Some will be donated to a Turangi op shop while the rest will go to the Lions charity book fair.

Mr Hawes said it was time for him and his wife to "get the bucket list sorted".

"Ailsa and I are leaving with no regrets, and wish the remaining Rotorua retailers, and our customers, all the best for the future."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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