Easter trading: Wellington retailer says staff before profit

Christmas shopping in Wellington. - Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Retailers in smaller Wellington towns have benefited from trading bans in the major centres surrounding them, but one who opened says a national ban would still be best.

Last week Retail New Zealand called for a national law change to allow retail trading across the country for all four days of the long Easter weekend.

Currently, the decision rests with local councils, and about two-thirds allow stores to open during the holiday.

In the Wellington region, district councils allowed stores to open in the smaller centres of Kāpiti, Horowhenua and Wairarapa.

But larger councils closed the shops in Wellington City, Lower Hutt, and Porirua, as well as Palmerston North in nearby Manawatū.

Kāpiti Chamber of Commerce board member Jacinda Thorn said allowing Easter trading put the decision into individual retailers' hands, which was best.

About half chose to open in Kāpiti, she estimated, but the ones that did were very busy, with many customers coming from out of town.

Attracting day-trip visitors to a town that was open for business meant more money flowing into the local economy. It also strengthened the district's focus on tourism as a growth area, she said.

Once the cluster of big regional highway projects are completed and travelling to Kāpiti is faster, she expects day-trip visitors to increase even more.

Easter Sunday 'a very strange situation'

However, a Kāpiti retailer who opened for Easter Sunday said the decision should be made with staff in mind, before profit.

Bede Laracy runs three clothing boutiques. This year, his menswear store closed (it doesn't normally open on Sundays), his Raumati Beach womenswear store opened on Sunday, and another womenswear store in Coastlands mall closed because retailers voted together to close for Easter.

Mr Laracy prefers a rule banning Easter trading, to protect the holiday for family time, but opened his Paper Doll store after talking with staff.

"The benefit of it is that it provides a staff member with a day's pay, because of course if you shut Sunday the staff member doesn't get paid, because it's a public holiday," he said.

"It is a very strange situation, with that Easter Sunday situation. We tend to think about how the staff are going to be affected, and make that the key focus."

However at some larger chain stores, the people making decisions about whether to schedule staff during Easter were not managing the store "on the ground" day to day, and may not have the same barometer for taking staff's needs into account, he said.

Mr Laracy said his store that opened was busy, but most visitors were from out of town as many locals were away on holiday. But Easter trading could be quite variable.

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