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Retail stats prove more business support will still be needed

Terence Harpur, chief executive of the Takapuna Business Association

“The Government must support businesses beyond additional resurgence support payments, and Auckland Council needs to come to the party too. This latest lockdown will take retailers and hospitality operators a long time to recover, if at all,” says Terence Harpur, chief executive of the Takapuna Business Association.

His comments come ahead of Cabinet deciding on Monday alert levels for Auckland and the rest of the country, with growing pressure to expand business support measures. Mr Harpur says, in reality, businesses will only start recovering when in Level 1.

“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. In fact, in February and March, Auckland’s retail statistics showed that Level 3, and even Level 2, remained an absolute killer,” he says

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% compared to the same period last year when Auckland was at Level 2.

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

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

The North Shore business leader says some Takapuna hospitality operators won’t even bother opening as many will struggle to break even with Level 2’s maximum limit of 50 people inside.

“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,” he says.

Mr Harpur says 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,” he says.

He says 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% refunded. This kind of support from council would send a great signal and would be a very timely boost to our hospitality operators,” he says.

The chief executive of the Takapuna Business Association says Government support is also needed for businesses’ ongoing overhead costs such a rent.

He is calling for rent subsidies for tenants unable to negotiate reductions as well as major banks to offer mortgage free holidays to landlords who reduce rents by at least 75% for their retail tenants.

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

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