Should Easter trading laws support our tourism industry?

  • Opinion
  • March 30, 2016
  • Paul Keane
Should Easter trading laws support our tourism industry?

The return to the office after Easter break generates a feeling of déjà vu. I don’t like being repetitive, yet once again the Easter break has raised the question of whether shops should be allowed to open on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

This issue is currently being addressed by Government and it seems apparent that the “trading pass” will be left with local bodies to decide. This in itself will be a diabolical outcome as holiday makers will not know where they stand.

From a personal perspective, I have always been of the view that we have enough trading days and why worry about 3.5 days a year when we cannot shop? It just does not seem that important.

Whilst this is just one man’s view, there are factors which influence my thinking.

Given the opportunity, some shops still choose to be closed

Over the long weekend, I was fortunate enough to spend some time in Russell in the Bay of Islands. That was after it took five and a half hours to get there from Auckland! The weather was outstanding and given current legislation, retail shops in Russel and Paihia are permitted to open on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Some shops were open, some were closed. It’s an individual retailer’s choice, but the fact is that not all took advantage of the opportunity. Why was that? Russell had heaps of tourists! The reason was that some retailers just wanted time off on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It’s that simple. That’s why the debate around trading on these days will go on for a long time.

Food and beverage is not the same as retail

Bars and restaurants were all open and were trading well, selling both alcohol and food. Debaters will suggest that if food and beverage facilities can open then why not retail stores? The reality is that the two are not the same. One is entertainment, and fulfilling personal needs, whilst the other is “trading”, there is a difference.

Craziness due to a lack of clarity

Some restaurateurs were also confused as to what they could and could not provide under current legislation. One restaurant refused to permit its customers drink their wine until their meal had been delivered to the table. Can you imagine the reaction from customers? They considered this an outrageous rule, as did those who were told they would have to stop drinking their wine once their food had been consumed. Have we all gone mad!

Let’s get clear about our motivations

Granting permission to open on Christmas day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and half of Anzac day should be driven by rules relative to ensuring that visitors to this country are able to shop in certain destinations on those days. Traditional retailers in cities do not need to open as they attract few international visitors, compared to true tourist locations.

This rule should not be confused with what visitor’s desire. It has nothing to do with that. When we visit other countries, we have to abide by their rules. Try getting an alcoholic drink in Dubai! However, if we are going to allow shops, restaurants and bars to open, then let’s make the rules clear as to what they can and cannot sell and lift the limitations which may currently exist.

Was rejection of the new flag also a rejection of change? 

Finally, the Government were wise to announce the outcome of the flag referendum right on Easter; the debate that followed was like a limp squid. It is however a great shame that the nation didn’t take the opportunity to move with the times.

What we may never know is exactly how many people wanted the current flag changed. The debate and referendum instead concentrated on one flag type over another, what was lost was the very apparent desire by a large number of people to change the flag.

I hope that the trading hours debate does not fall into the same vacuum. We must decide what the “needs are” rather than make an emotive decision to open all the doors all the time.

But that’s all just one man’s opinion!

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 post originally appeared on RCG's blog.


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