More Support Still Needed for Retail

The Government must support businesses beyond additional resurgence support payments, and Auckland Council needs to come to the party too, according to Terence Harpur, chief executive of the Takapuna Business Association.

“This latest lockdown will take retailers and hospitality operators a long time to recover, if at all,” stated Harpur.

“While three additional payments will help, the ongoing impacts on Auckland business will be severe. Let’s not forget that Level 3 changes little and Level 2 still means considerable restrictions.”

Terence Harpur

The Takapuna Business Association has released the latest Marketview data for the week ending 5 September. It shows total retail spend in Takapuna was down 96.2 percent compared to the same period last year when Auckland was at Level 2.

As well as showing a 96.2 percent fall in overall retail spend, the Marketview weekly report for Takapuna revealed spending on Hospitality & Accommodation was -99.1 percent; Food, Liquor & Pharmacies -69.2 percent; Clothing, Footwear & Dept. Stores -100.0 percent; Home & Recreational Retailing -98.2 percent; and all other -99.3 percent.

“When Auckland was last in Level 2 and 3 earlier this year Marketview data showed Takapuna’s retail spend was down between 50 percent and 85 percent. For business, these levels are still a considerable struggle to stay afloat with restrictions on customer numbers and many office employees working from home,” continued Harpur.

The North Shore business leader noted that some Takapuna hospitality operators won’t even bother opening as many will struggle to break even.

“I support the call for the resurgence payment to be paid weekly until Level 1 – not every three weeks as has been announced. This is critical, particularly for retail, hospitality and personal services all of which face heavy restrictions for the foreseeable future. The wage subsidy should also continue through Level 2 with past retail statistics proof that trade will remain crippled.”

Harpur said town centres, like Takapuna, rely on people coming to the office. He believes Auckland Council and large corporates need to set the example and insist their staff return to their normal workplaces in Level 2.

Auckland Council also needs to be ‘can-do’ when it comes to the region’s hospitality operators this spring and coming summer.

“Auckland Council needs to temporarily relax its outdoor dining restrictions for restaurants, bars and cafes so they can cater for more people while ensuring adequate space between tables. In fact, any outdoor licence restrictions should be removed for at least six months.”

According to Harpur, provisos should include a council review after five months, a 1.2 metre clearway for pedestrians at all times, and that neighbouring businesses are not negatively impacted. Auckland Council should also consider refunding a raft of compliance fees to support these small businesses

“All outdoor licensing fees should be totally refunded. Other hospitality compliance fees for food safety fees, inspection fees, alcohol licences, registration fees and the likes should be at least 75 percent refunded. This kind of support from council would send a great signal and would be a very timely boost to our hospitality operators.”

Government support is also needed for businesses’ ongoing overhead costs such a rent.

Harpur is calling for rent subsidies for tenants unable to negotiate reductions. The Reserve Bank, he said, should also advise major banks to offer mortgage free holidays to landlords who reduce rents by at least 75 percent for their retail tenants.

“Level 3 and then Level 2 will be welcomed by business but not celebrated,” Harpur concluded.

“We’re now calling on both the Government and Auckland Council to urgently design and deliver comprehensive support packages which back businesses right through this crisis.”