The New Zealand-made retail sector is struggling and lacking the support needed to stay afloat, a veteran fashion designer says.

Auckland-based Caroline Marr, director of The Carpenters Daughter which has been in business for close to 30 years, said it was impossible for New Zealand retailers to compete with online retail giants such as Boohoo and ASOS.

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"Remember when you used to go overseas and you wanted to buy the Nike shoes because nobody could have them back in New Zealand? That doesn't happen anymore," she said.


"Everything is now bought online and that's what I put it down to."

Kiwi fashion retailers may face a similar fate as Andrea Moore, Minnie Cooper, Meccano and Kimberleys Fashion - all who have gone bust recently, if consumers don't buy more local, Marr said.

It was also unrealistic to believe small brands could survive long term if the tax loophole was not closed, she said.

"The sector looks down," Marr said. "My industry is dying."

"In the last two weeks I've been to Queenstown, Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington and I've noticed, even in Auckland, you don't see many bags, walking around."

The New Zealand-made retail sector began struggling about 10 years and had now reached a dire state, she said.

"There's a lot of people putting all of their personal money into keeping open. There are a lot of people I know who are struggling still that will probably be headlined in the next couple of months."

International entrants to the market were also killing off small players, Marr said.


"You can put yourself beside those big people and offer something different and exclusive but there has to be balance and not too many huge overseas corporates coming in," she said. "Online, too, nobody is highlighting or making anybody pay the GST. Us little local retailers, we have to pay GST and some of our purchases are under $220... The government really needs to move on that."

Twenty years ago shopping malls offered wide variety on tenant retailers, she said.

"There were lovely little personable shops... Now, you go to the mall and there's nobody that small anymore, it's all the same, it's boring," Marr said.

"It's interesting how people have got lazy and don't get off their backsides to go to shop anymore. People aren't coming in the stores anymore, and that's why we're seeing so many more 'for lease' signs coming up and that's what kills retail."

Marr said she was disappointed Buy New Zealand Made was not pushing the cause from a local stance.

"Buy New Zealand Made, they're really not [campaigning] for the local business, they're actually doing for it exporting overseas," Marr said.

"Nobody is pushing local within our Government or corporate area."

Buy NZ Made acting executive director Anna Heyward said it did not focus all of its energy on the export market.

"Given the increase in online shopping, we have been emphasising to New Zealand Made business the importance of having an online presence as well as bricks and mortar retail," Heyward said. "Our energies are not specifically focused on export; we assist our licensees with the promotion of their New Zealand Made products, whether for sale in New Zealand or abroad. Showcasing New Zealand products on the world stage is an area also well covered by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise."