Slow start to post-lockdown spending

‘‘Things are tight’’ ... Figures were down about 50% at Suits on Wall St, owner Martyn Ballantyne...
‘‘Things are tight’’ ... Figures were down about 50% at Suits on Wall St, owner Martyn Ballantyne said.PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Retailers in the South say there are signs of consumers holding back spending, but it is still too early to get the full picture of what a post-lockdown economy will mean for them.

Figures released by electronic transactions company Paymark found spending nationwide on retail stores, excluding supermarkets, liquor outlets and and pharmacies, was down 26% on the same time last year for the week ending last Sunday.

‘‘Things are tight,’’ Suits on Wall St owner Martyn Ballantyne said.

‘‘We’re seeing about 50% of what we would normally see at this time.’’

He said there were fewer people coming into the Wall Street Mall — probably caused by frustration with recent changes to George St traffic, where the speed limit was reduced.

‘‘People who are coming in are saying it takes forever to get from the Princes St-Moray Pl intersection to get outside of Wall Street.’’

There had been more online and phone sales, he said, but it still did not make up for the lack of foot traffic.

Rata Jewellery co-owner Keith Clifford said customers were coming through, but they were not spending.

‘‘There’s some activity there but I can’t see there’s going to be a hell of a lot.’’

He was appreciative of the wage subsidy and help with rent, but he wanted to see the Government try to stir some activity in the economy — not necessarily helicopter payments, but some way of getting money to consumers.

‘‘What retailers need ... is paying customers coming through the front door.’’

He described the changes to George St as a ‘‘source of conversation’’.

At Invercargill menswear store McKnight & Brown, owner Bernie Brown was elated to be open and had noticed a spike in activity.

‘‘A bricks-and-mortar operation for men’s apparel is a hell a lot of easier to do business in than just emails, phone calls and ... click and collect.

‘‘It’s chalk and cheese the difference between trying to open behind closed doors and being able to welcome our customers into the store.’’

The lockdown spelled the end for summer sales and people were interested in winter clothing now, he said.

Mr Brown was excited by the inner city rebuild happening on both sides of his store in Esk St, saying there were ‘‘some positive things ahead for Invercargill’’.

At Wilkinsons Pharmacy in Queenstown, co-owner Glenn Mitchell said their figures were probably down about 60% of ‘‘normal trade’’.

‘‘We have seen a little bit of an increase in the number of people coming through, but to where we would have been normally we’re a long way off.’’

He attributed the loss of business to the ‘‘sheer number of people actually physically in Queenstown’’.

‘‘The quicker the domestic tourism starts ... the better.’’

Oamaru Sports and Outdoors Ltd director Barry McCallum said their figures were distorted by duck-shooting season bringing a lot of customers to the store.

‘‘We’re hopefully going to carry on being relatively busy but a lot of it is driven by that, but it’s a little hard for us to gauge how it’s going to be after this week.’’

He felt confident there had been some uptick in business — outside of duck-shooting customers — at the end of last week when the store opened its doors.

‘‘Hopefully, people are shopping local and supporting local retailers,’’ he said.

Excluding supermarkets, liquor outlets and pharmacies, the Paymark numbers for nationwide retail spending in lockdown plummeted to about 10% of what they were in 2019.

The figures for last week, as the country moved from Alert Level 3 to Level 2, were down 11% when supermarkets and the like were included.


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