Covid-19 coronavirus: Retail and hospitality industry nervous and stressed about lockdown

The retail and hospitality sectors are nervous about Covid lockdown and the impact was already being felt even before the official Government announcement.

Hospitality NZ chief executive Julie White said the immediate impact is already being seen with customer cancellations and business preparing for lockdown.

“In Auckland [it’s being felt] with cancellations coming through for both accommodation and food and beverage operators,” she said.

“Business owners are already in overdrive looking at shutting their doors,” White said.

“Perishable food and beverage need to be attend to, gas lines need to be shut down, suppliers are impacted. The uncertainty for owners and employees is extremely stressful,” she said.

There is no contingency plan for the Hospitality sector if the country goes into hard lockdown.

“The impact is immediate, no access to working capital and the uncertainty affects the pace of business confidence,” White said.

The positive community case was identified in Auckland today.

Retail analyst Chris Wilkinson said there was significant nervousness across the retail sector at the prospect of disruption on businesses’ ability to trade.

“Past lockdowns have been hugely impactful on spending and goodwill and it takes time to recover from these. Some haven’t,” he said.

There were concerns around employment so the Government would need to act swiftly and put appropriate subsidies in place, he said.

“That meant businesses were comfortable retaining people and skills during any period they were unable to open,” Wilkinson said.

Restaurant Association of New Zealand national president Mike Egan said he was nervous because his restaurant could lose up to $20,000 depending on the length of the lockdown.

“We have perishable products like fruits, veges, seafood, meat etc, … some of them we can deal with some of them we can’t, it’s pretty short notice,” he said.

He owns two restaurants one in Auckland and in Wellington with a total of about 80 staff.

“We are a pretty small but significant part of the wider economy, and for the country, we got a take one for the team of five million.

“If the lockdown went for a month that would be a significant hardship,” he said.

“And we’d hope that the Government would step up with the wage subsidy because we don’t want to lay off any staff, they have mortgage and rents to pay,” Egan said.

Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said the industry will need total clarity from the Government and as to what changes if any will be made.

“If parts of the country are to be locked down at level 4, then it is important for there to be total clarity about what categories of essential goods can be sold at level 4, and which stores can open,” Harford said.

Retailers have been planning for further lockdowns, and will be busy this afternoon preparing to implement those plans,” Harford said.

CEO of the restaurant association Marisa Bidois said although the economic impact would be hard on the hospitality industry, its members support short and sharp focused lockdown in an area.

“Lockdown is incredibly challenging for the hospitality industry and in respect of a level 4 lockdown, gives them no opportunity for revenue,” she said.

“Whilst the wage subsidy is appreciated and obviously gives employees certainty, we would like to see more support for business owners by way of targeted fiscal assistance to help business owners cover their fixed costs,” she said.


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