A study is underway into what happened to hundreds of Christchurch inner city businesses after the devastating earthquakes.

The University of Canterbury project is tracking individual businesses to find out if they've relocated, downsized, or ceased to trade.

Preliminary analysis shows that 15 per cent of businesses have not relocated or reopened new stores but have simply downsized with fewer stores in Christchurch than before the quakes.

"This demonstrates the advantages of larger businesses with diversified locations," says Tracy Hatton, a postgraduate student who is heading the project.


A second part of the study will investigate the stories behind the numbers with interviews carried out with businesses that have ceased trading, with aim of seeking to understand what circumstances they faced and the choices they made.

"I will also look at how many organisations actually fail or how many choose to exit," Ms Hatton said.

"I want to know how many of the businesses that cannot be found are actually these new business with new names and locations."

Inland Revenue figures, reported by Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera), show that around 10,000 new businesses have been registered in Canterbury since September 2010.

The university's research to date also shows that there are many businesses that have managed to sustain themselves for more than two years with plans still in progress to reopen their businesses, indicating that length of closure is not necessarily an indicator of likely resumption of trading.

"How these organisations who are still closed but plan to resume manage to sustain themselves in the interim will be part of the information hoped to be gained by interviewing business owners," Ms Hatton said.

The businesses taking part were members of the Central City Business Association set up to help promote and develop the central city retail area, in the face of stiff competition from the big malls.

Ms Hatton will give a presentation to the Resilient Organisations Symposium at UC on Tuesday.

She is seeking to speak to Christchurch business owners who were in the central business district before the 2010 and 20111 earthquakes. She can be contacted at tracy.hatton@pg.canterbury.ac.nz.