Survey reveals fears of ‘retail ghost town’

Quiet streets . . . Noticeably less foot traffic through and around Main St in Gore has businesses worried. PHOTO: THE ENSIGN FILES

Gore becoming ‘‘a retail ghost town’’ is a prominent fear in the district’s business community, a survey report says.

Supply chains, staffing and rising costs were the biggest challenges for those interviewed in a McElrea Consulting business survey, commissioned by the Gore District Council’s Closing the Gaps team.

Among those surveyed were 22 retail businesses.

The survey report said it was difficult to find optimism in the retail sector.

‘‘The past 12 months have been hard on many of the businesses in the Gore district. Businesses in retail have been particularly hard hit, with many struggling.’’

Respondents commented on a noticeable decrease in foot traffic through and around Main St.

‘‘People just don’t have much expendable income anymore,’’ the report said.

Retailers also blamed Covid-19, the new mall in Invercargill and stock issues.

‘‘Slow distribution channels have meant stock arriving late and sometimes out of season. For example, one shop received all of their football boots nearing the end of football season.’’

The closing of the retail shop Oui Oui had also sparked concern, the report said.

‘‘The outlook was overall very grim in this sector.’’

The report was discussed at a community strategy committee meeting last month.

Community strategy manager Anne Pullar said businesses were much more pessimistic than when they were last surveyed 18 months ago.

‘‘There’s definitely changes in workforce attitudes that we’re picking up in our district. There’s higher rates of anxiety and wellness, there’s a lot more financial pressure and people are telling us that there’s a change in work ethic as well.’’

There was a real want and need for businesses to collaborate and for people to support local retailers, she said.

Mayor Tracy Hicks said any shop-local scheme had to be driven by the community.

‘‘If council can be a conduit, fantastic and I’ll be all for that.

‘‘Retail is hard work. It’s been hard work for a long time and there’s a lot more competition than there ever ever was.

‘‘I know in the past, the competition was the person beside you or the person on the other side of the street, but now the competition is the person on the other side of the world.’’

Community empowerment co-ordinator Mark McCann said the Closing the Gaps team was taking steps to tackle this issue by matching jobseekers with employers looking for workers.

‘‘We’ve had yet another really successful year with Closing the Gaps.

‘‘We managed to fund 51 placements and we also supported a further 10 placements.’’

Closing the Gaps has a website where jobs are advertised, and a Facebook page to inform the business community of upcoming events and opportunities, as well as support and subsidies they may be eligible for.

‘‘We also use that as a platform to share information about things like Immigration New Zealand criteria, such as the accredited employer work visa that was launched recently,’’ Mr McCann said.

The survey report would help ‘‘inform a new Gore district workforce plan including needs of businesses and insights into the current business climate.’’

There would be a particular focus on school leavers and how they could be supported in their transition to the workplace, he said.