Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford discusses how the pandemic has impacted the retail sector and its remarkable come back.
How would you describe 2020 for your business?
2020 has been a difficult year for all businesses, including Retail NZ. Through the year, we have been really busy providing advice to members on managing the Covid-19 situation, talking with the Government about the rules of operation, and speaking up for the sector on key issues.
How do you think the Government has handled the Covid-19 crisis?
New Zealand has come through the Covid-19 crisis amazingly well, and it's been great to see the Government support business through initiatives such as the wage subsidy. While it is really important to maintain public health and keep people safe, Retail NZ does think the Government needs to take more of a risk-based approach to the rules of operating at different Alert Levels.
What are two key things the Government should do for economic recovery?
Economic forecasts suggest that the economy will start to stumble next year, we really need to see consumer and business confidence remain high, and consumer spending to be encouraged through, for example, more stimulus such as tax cuts. At the same time, Retail NZ would like to see the Government relieve the pressure on business by scaling back the planned minimum wage increase, pro-rating the proposed 10 day sick leave entitlement for part-timers, and thinking about alternatives for celebrating Matariki rather than creating a new public holiday.
How is your business planning to tackle 2021?
The challenges for retail aren't going away in 2021. Retail NZ is a not for profit organisation supporting the retail sector. Our vision is to be asked first on anything retail – so we'll be talking closely with Government about the challenges for our sector, engaging with members to help them through. We're hoping that, as a vaccine is rolled out and a bubble opens with Australia, that things will slowly start returning to normal.
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What will be the major challenges and/or opportunities for your industry?
The big challenges ahead for retailers include managing their business through massive cost increases coming through changes to employment law proposed by the Government; coping with supply chain challenges in the aftermath of Covid-19; finding and retaining talented employees; and reinventing products and processes to cater to increasing consumer demand for more sustainably produced products.
Where are you holidaying this summer?
Sunny Ōtaki Beach, on the Kapiti Coast. Great outlet, shopping there too!
What are your predictions for 2021?
There will still be significant uncertainty as a result of Covid-19, but things will start to normalise towards the end of the year as the vaccine is rolled out and the borders open. We will see more online shopping, and more physical shops closing as retailers try to manage increasing business costs. Kiwi retailers will also be looking to improve their e-commerce offerings through better delivery services.