Dunedin retailer blames big-box stores for shop's demise

Ken Trevathan's retirement fund will disappear with the closure of his Mornington Hammer Hardware...
Ken Trevathan's retirement fund will disappear with the closure of his Mornington Hammer Hardware store next month. Photo by Bruce Munro
Expect to see more Dunedin businesses close in the coming year, warns Mornington Hammer Hardware owner Ken Trevathan.

Mr Trevathan is closing Dunedin's last neighbourhood hardware store next month - forced out of business by Dunedin City Council's inability to prevent big-box retail stores setting up in the city, he says.

In response, city councillor Kate Wilson says while she sympathises with Mr Trevathan's situation, the council cannot take potential competition into account when considering retail developments and it is shoppers who ultimately decide where to spend their money.

Mornington Hammer Hardware sales dropped 40% after Bunnings Warehouse Dunedin opened in the middle of last year, Mr Trevathan said.

"Bunnings and Mitre 10 Mega have been doing large amounts of advertising. I think both have taken some customers from me," he said.

He has been unable to sell the business which he has owned for 13 years, reducing his planned retirement fund to whatever he earns from the closing down sale.

"I've lost a lot of money. Like all small businesses, you work hard to make a living and hope you have something at the end of it to sell. The reality is all I've got to sell is some stock. I will virtually have just the pension to live on.It's not a lot of money these days."

The DCC was concerned empty shops in George St needed beautifying ahead of this year's Rugby World Cup, but that was not the real problem, Mr Trevathan said.

"Letting companies put up all these big-box stores . . . they will end up with half the main street empty if they are not careful," he said.

More shops throughout Dunedin would close in the coming year, he predicted.

"Particularly people of a similar age to me who are just holding on until they retire and then will drop it. It's all a bit sad really."

Cr Wilson, who is chairwoman of the planning and environment committee, said it was "sad when good traditional community shops close".

"However, no council in New Zealand nor probably globally, have been able to stop big-box developments, and it would appear regrettably that the market - the shoppers - seem to have made the choice to follow cheaper prices rather than supporting their local services," Cr Wilson said.

The Resource Management Act specifically excludes competition as a reason for councils to stop such developments.

Big-box development had been a trend for many years.

While there was some expectation that factors such as peak oil could change shopping trends, "that might be some time away and may be product-specific", she said.

"At the end of the day it is the shoppers who have decided to prefer a different product or service level and I am uncertain what the council could do about this."

She suggested community retail centres could "work together better to jointly promote themselves".

Council staff are developing a spatial plan for the city as part of work on the new district plan.

"It's about looking at what is needed for a good, healthy community - planning forward rather than reacting to applications," Cr Wilson said.

The spatial plan will be released for public consultation later this year.


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