T&T on Queen Street, one of the Masterton shops closing for good. PHOTO/ELISA VORSTER

Chain Store closures a dark cloud on retail scene

ELISA VORSTER

elisa.vorster@age.co.nz

Shopping options on Masterton’s Queen St have been dealt a blow with three stores set to shut their doors for good.

Of the three shops closing, Millers Fashions and Stevens, inside the Farmers store, will both close by the end of the month, while T&T will remain open until May.

The reduction in shopping options will leave some customers little choice but to spend their money out of town.

“It’s terrible about Millers, because now there is nowhere really for plus size women to shop in Masterton anymore,” said Kate Cosgrove, joint owner of Bear Flag books and retro.

When asked if she thought it would affect other local businesses, her immediate response was “hell yeah”.

Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson said the shop closures reflected the change taking place in retail centres right across New Zealand and was not a problem specific to Masterton.

“It is a concern because we want people to have a good shopping experience when they are shopping in our town,” she said.

“Retail changes, and the CBD will change over time to reflect these changes.”

She said when it came to national chains, the decision came down to their respective bottom lines and locally- owned businesses could still thrive on Queen St.

However, Bear Flag’s other joint owner Mark Rogers said any business closures in the town affected all businesses, in both foot traffic and the general vibe of the area.

“People attract people, it’s as simple as that,” he said.

He was pleased his store had been thriving in the two years it had been open but acknowledged retails stores suffered under the stress of online competition.

While he believed the key to a successful business in Wairarapa came down to having a point of difference, he said it was also reliant on the community.

“If locals want local shops to stay open, the locals need to use them and support them.”

Tony Allwood at Tonz Barber Shop said he was lucky to be in a service business, as retail in the area was doing it tough due to the shift to online shopping.

“I’d be scared to own retail if I didn’t have a strong online site to back it up.

“A lot of business is online now, so you’ve got to be able to adapt.”

Wairarapa Chamber of Commerce general manager Catherine Rossiter-Stead called the shop closures “a real shame” and agreed competition from online shopping was forcing a change in how retailers should operate.

“Businesses need to work together and be a lot smarter in how they promote themselves to their maximum potential.

“The local economy is really important and it’s important to support local businesses.”

Paymark figures released earlier this month showed retail spending in the region was actually on the rise last month in comparison to February last year.

The report showed spending in the Wairarapa region was up over nine per cent, with spending from international cards increasing almost four per cent.