The wider impact of New Zealand's Easter trading laws

  • Opinion
  • April 8, 2015
  • Paul Keane
The wider impact of New Zealand's Easter trading laws

Of all the activities that have been generated in the property environment over the past few weeks, the item that caught our attention yet again was the impact of non-trading on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. For the uninitiated, those two days together with Christmas Day and the morning of Anzac Day are sacrosanct, and all retail stores must be closed, with the exception of those stores that have dispensation.

This is government legislation, it’s not just an idea that springs from Christian beliefs. So why is this story newsworthy this week? Actually, for a number of very good reasons, as outlined below.

The first is that if you flout the law, regardless of how frivolous the law may seem, then you are subject to prosecution.

The powers that be should ensure that they do prosecute those stores that open. If they don’t then the law is an ass and the purpose of prosecution should be abandoned.

Also, the amount of fine should fit the crime. To levy a fine of just $1000 individually to stores that open is so insignificant it is ridiculous.

Further, stores that don’t open are obeying the law and shouldn’t be penalised by having competitors open. So the law is there to protect and control, and the authorities should ensure that happens.

The second is the benefit to staff.

Retailers employ a number of staff, so why shouldn’t they benefit from a day or two off? On the other hand, with many retail workers on minimum wage or not far off it, many of them would be very happy to have the time-and-a-half and the day in lieu that working at Easter would get them; every extra dollar counts.

However, restaurant workers are often a bit annoyed to find that Easter Sunday is not a public holiday at all, and they don’t get paid anything extra for it. The holiday benefit is transferred to the Monday instead, where stores are allowed to be open as they see fit.

Over the course of a year, its just 3.5 days that stores are forced to close, and surely that is not going to impact negatively on our way of life. It effectively creates an opportunity to spend time with family and friends and to visit the beach etc. Also time to go out to lunch at a restaurant, or even a pub where you can buy a drink only if it’s accompanying a meal. What?!

How come takeaways and restaurants can open, as can cinemas and other entertainment facilities, whereas retail shops have to close? That’s the third thing, it makes a mockery of the observance. Why is there a rule for some and not for others?

Think about it, shops have to close but other entertainment facilities can open.

The fourth thing is that most landlords are subject to prosecution if their tenants open unlawfully.

Is that correct? It sure is, and most landlords wouldn’t have a clue. If some random retailer opens and he is your tenant you can be prosecuted. Further, as a tenant it’s a condition of your lease that you operate lawfully, if you don’t, the Landlord can sue you for damages.

So it’s a very swings and roundabouts occasion, we are all effectively at risk.

The fifth thing is that why should we care?

Why don’t we all just observe and enjoy the occasion. Do we really need to shop on these 3.5 days annually? Why not take it on the chin, and accept that fact.

However, if you do believe that shops should be open, then why not just go to work and give up the four days of holiday yourself! How many of us would agree to that?

 Paul Keane is a registered property professional and has vast experience in New Zealand’s commercial property industries. He provides retail and property consultancy including development management to many New Zealand property owners, developers and city councils. This article was originally published on RCG's blog.

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