Black Friday marks one of the busiest shopping days of the year but Retail NZ says there's a sense of gloom throughout Wellington's CBD.
For most retailers across the country, the Christmas shopping period officially begins today with Black Friday sales.
However, Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said Wellington retailers have lower expectations this year.
"In an ordinary year we'd expect today to be when things really ramp up for the Christmas period, but this year will be very different.
"More and more people are working from home after Covid and don't come into the city, both because they're nervous and also online shopping is becoming more popular."
"Central Wellington retailers are feeling pretty gloomy heading into Christmas. Businesses here are under huge pressure and we need more people to be able to easily come back into the city and shop."
But Harford said plans by Let's Get Wellington Moving to remove cars from the CBD will do the opposite of that, and is only further dampening the Christmas spirit.
"We're already hearing retailers are either looking to end their leases or not continue them. There's huge uncertainty because of Let's Get Wellington Moving. It will make it harder and less viable for businesses to operate.
"Customers need to be able to actually get here, and want to be able to get here. The underlying economics of running a store in central Wellington is changing. Customers aren't shopping in-store the way they used to."
Toy World franchise owner Phillip Bramley said there is far less foot traffic mainly due to public servants working from home.
"The Government is the CBD's biggest employer, and they're actively encouraging their staff to work from home.
"The knock-on effect of that is someone not buying a coffee, not buying a train ticket and certainly not shopping along the Golden Mile."
He said the industry is extremely nervous about cars being removed from the CBD.
"It's a great idea in places like Barcelona where there is high population density, but watch as the Golden Mile becomes a ghost town and a dust bowl as it all unfolds.
"We had our lease come up this year, so we downsized by about half as I don't have much faith left in Wellington central city retailing."
But Wellington City Councillor Tamatha Paul said the Golden Mile plans are just what businesses need after struggling with alert level decisions.
"If we have good public and active transport, tens of thousands of more people will be able to come into the city and spend money, have fun and make the city vibrant.
"In our immediate context this will be really valuable and may save a lot of places that don't have much capacity right now due to Covid."
Paul admits there may be some teething problems, but retailers need to stick it out in order to reap the benefits.
"It will be a bit of an adjustment and learning to navigate our city in a new way, but once we get through that it will be an exciting time and there will be more customers, money being spent and people going into stores.
"We're decades behind other modern cities around the world who are reaping those benefits."