More than 30 people are out of a job after three food retailers closed in Rotorua.
Texas Chicken on both Te Ngae Rd and in Fairy Springs, Ronnies Cafe in the CBD and Robert Harris cafe in the CBD and at the airport have suddenly closed.
High operating costs are behind the closure of Texas Chicken, according to Texas Chicken New Zealand's managing director, George Constantinou, after the two Rotorua stores shut last Tuesday.
"High operating costs in Rotorua, coupled with sales that were slower than anticipated, means we had to make the decision to shut both of our stores."
Both stores opened late last year after finding a site that enabled Constantinou to expand the business from Auckland.
At the time, Constantinou was quoted in the Rotorua Daily Post as saying, "We're quietly confident. I think the market's right for it. Rotorua is a great town and it attracts a lot of tourists as well. It's got strong population growth so we're pretty happy."
The stores had been expected to create up to 80 jobs between them.
But Constantinou has since told the Rotorua Daily Post it became apparent after opening that sales weren't as strong as he had hoped or anticipated.
"Customers were enjoying our food and service, and we had accrued some loyal fans, but we simply weren't getting enough people through the doors on a regular basis.
"We spent almost a year doing our best to turn things around. However, in the end, closing the doors was the only decision we could make."
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Until the closures, Texas Chicken had 26 employees working in Rotorua.
"It certainly wasn't a quick or easy decision, and the entire team is saddened by the closures," Constantinou said.
A sign on the doors of the two stores states: "Unfortunately we are closed due to unforeseen circumstances."
Meanwhile, six workers were affected by the November 28 closure of Robert Harris cafe on Tutanekai St.
But franchise manager David Thackery said it was not the end of Robert Harris in Rotorua.
"We would like to reopen a brand new flagship Robert Harris cafe in Rotorua as soon as we secure a new site and franchisee."
A lease ending after about 25 years was the reason behind the closure but when asked by the Rotorua Daily Post about why the lease could not be renewed, Thackery said he could not comment.
A window sign says: "We would like to thank all of our customers from the bottom of our heart for your continued support throughout our ownership."
Robert Harris also had a Rotorua Airport store which has closed. The airport's website says the cafe closed "following the retirement of operator Barbara Holmes".
Terrace Airside, an offshoot of Terrace Kitchen, will fill the gap at the terminal and will open as part of the redevelopment there in February next year.
Thackery said he was unsure of how many staff were employed at the store.
Ronnies Cafe on Pukuatua St appears to have also closed.
The store is padlocked shut and a handwritten sign in the window says: "Sorry we are close." The sign, which hangs above the footpath, is also broken.
The Ronnies Cafe owner could not be reached.
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard said the closures were a "one-off blip".
"The chamber is of the belief that the way to counter the CBD issues is to continue to get good new programmes going like the Pullman Hotel and the Arawa St one,'' he said.
"I wouldn't regard this as anything other than a one-off blip. If we continue to create economic growth we will get those new things happening.
"But it is not going to happen overnight, so we are all just going to have to hold hands and work together and carry on."
TelferYoung registered valuer Grant Utteridge told the Rotorua Daily Post last month that by his estimation there were more empty CBD shops compared with the 59 reported in its yearly 2018 December survey.
"In my view, the vacancy rates have got worse. My gut feeling is the number of shops would have gone up slightly."
But Utteridge said it was not a problem isolated to Rotorua and was being felt around the country.
"Retail is a tough gig and other places are facing the same challenges. Retailers just can't afford to pay more rents."