In August, MPs voted to give councils the power to decide Easter trading hours when the Shop Trading Hours Bill was passed.
Prior to the Bill passing, only businesses in tourism hotspots like Rotorua and Queenstown could remain open on Easter Sunday, while other towns’ retail stores had to shut up shop.
Retail NZ have been vocal proponents of the change, with general manager of public affairs Greg Harford saying the organisation supports giving businesses a choice on whether to open their store or not.
“Overall, while we think a consistent national approach would have been better, we think the passage of the bill is positive for retail overall,” Harford said to The Register in August.
“If councils decide to adopt a shop trading hours policy, retail businesses will have the flexibility to decide whether or not to open on Easter Sunday, and employees will be able to choose whether or not they work. There are safeguards in the legislation to protect both employees and businesses, and attention will now be turning to local councils as they consider the issue ahead of Easter 2017.”
Now, the small-but-gutsy South Island town of Gore has been quick to act on the legalisation change.
Key stakeholders in the town, including local retail organisation GoRetail, have decided they won’t embrace the option to open on Easter Sunday.
“Gore’s decision to not open on Easter Sunday was simple: We already had a clear plan for our retailers and customers regarding opening hours,” GoRetail spokesperson and Carvin Streetwear owner Chanelle Purser says.
“When GoRetail was formed with the the support of our Gore District Council and mayor Tracy Hicks, it was established early on that as a group of mainly small to medium businesses, a lot of small businesses don't have the luxury of extra staff for time off and friends and family time is important.
“We wanted clear and precise opening hours as a guideline for our customers and business. It was one of the first things we worked on as a group when GoRetail was formed. When the Bill was passed, we were in the fortunate position because we have a well integrated group, with goals and plans in place that had already established Sunday was a non-retail day in Gore. However, our fantastic array of hospitality establishments are open for businesses on Sundays.”
First Retail managing director Chris Wilkinson applauded Gore for being so decisive.
Other councils are hesitant to make a move on the matter because it’s a “political hot potato”, he says, so there will end up being a lot of consultation amongst different groups.
“In many cases there’ll be a lot of lobbying from big retailers, there’ll be sentiment from smaller independent retailers who are desperate to keep it a day off,” he says.
“Because Gore’s retail sector is so cohesive and the council works so closely with them, they’ve developed this model where they realised Sundays haven’t been successful.”
Gore’s quick decision making shows how agile and strategic its retail sector is, Wilkinson says.
“Many councils are still in the process of developing one, or don’t even have a retail strategy. Some aren’t even at first base. Without a strategy, how can you determine which way you can go?”
He says he believes the majority of consumers in Gore will support them on their stance.
Find out more about Gore, the little town that could, here. The Gore District Council is still working through the legislative side of the decision on Easter trading.
This article has been amended on 05/10/16.