Every year residents in the Bay spend billions of dollars in retail. But as Carmen Hall has discovered, that industry is also facing challenges including staff shortages.
Bay of Plenty residents spend about $6 billion a year on retail and $96b nationally but business experts say consumers are tightening their wallets and the industry is struggling to find workers.
Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said some customers were reluctant to spend and the strong competition was keeping a lid on prices but this region had performed better than others.
He said one challenge was increasing rents while the other was finding skilled workers.
Modern retail jobs covered everything from frontline sales to web design, logistics, social media, marketing and a range of other roles, Harford said.
''Retailers are operating in a competitive market for talent. It's really challenging to find good employees with the right range of literacy, numeracy, customer service and innovative skills to work in the sector.''
In the Bay of Plenty, customers spend around $6b a year in retail and North Island regions including the Bay were performing better overall in terms of sales growth than South Island regions.
Nationally, the best performing part of the sector was "recreational goods'', Harford said.
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard told the Rotorua Daily Post its members had both ends of the spectrum when it came to finding staff.
''Some advertise jobs and they have a huge number of responses while others say they are having trouble finding skilled staff. I think one of the difficulties is making connections between those who are seeking work and those who are seeking workers.
''There seems to be a lot of effort getting people back into employment off the benefit but not so much going into those people making connections with employers.''
Yudu editor Kirsty Wynn said retail jobs were notoriously hard to fill in the lead-up to Christmas.
She said there was an increase in the roles available because of extended trading hours however a lot of people were hesitant to take on a new job because it was unlikely they would get leave.
''It's a busy time of the year and a lot of people put off finding a new job until after the holiday season.''
The hardest positions to fill according to recruiters she had spoken to were ones that required specific skills and knowledge in a particular area such as tech products.
Retailworld recruitment specialists told Wynn pay rates in the sector vary from $17.70 an hour to an average of $21 an hour.
Retailworld had current listings for fulltime retail sales paying $44,000 with a phone package, bonuses and full training.
Not being able to fill positions could have a real impact, Wynn said.
''Being short-staffed for a long period means pressure on other team members. It means they might be overworked and have no time to take leave but can also affect morale.''
Foodstuffs New Zealand head of corporate affairs and CSR Antoinette Laird said it employed 2495 employees across eight New Worlds, six Pak'nSaves and 16 Four Squares in the Bay of Plenty.
About 5 per cent of those employees had been with the business for more than 10 years.
The longevity of the employees was a credit to the supportive owner-operators and the opportunities provided to staff that keep them interested in their role, she said.
''There are paths to new opportunities in every area of our business – IT, merchandise, supply chain, property, sustainability, store ownership, just to name a few – and we're always on the hunt for ambitious individuals to join our team and grab them.''
New World Westend checkout operator Fran Wilson had been in her job for 18 years and had never considered working anywhere else.
She started in dairy and the deli but said her passion was for the checkout.
''That is what I love and it's where I've been for the last 10 years. I am really passionate about customer service, and ensuring all customers are greeted with a smile from the moment they walk in, to the moment they leave."
Ministry for Social Development Jobseeker data showed there were 7167 work-ready beneficiaries in September this year in the Bay of Plenty compared with 6481 in September 2018.
Bay of Plenty regional director Kim Going said the ministry was in regular contact with employers in the retail sector and were working closely with people interested in working in the industry to connect them to the labour market.
''One area where we're having a number of successes is through our partnership with Employ NZ and its Training for Work programme, which supports people to upskill and retrain for jobs in the retail and hospitality sectors.''
At the moment the ministry was working with a large local supermarket chain to upskill, retrain and get people into a job within the retail sector.
Since July 2018, 49 people aged 18 to 24 had also participated in the Red Shirts in the Community programme. The partnership was with six Warehouse stores in the region which provided work experience.