Cashing in: Retail spending up but hospitality struggling for staff

by | Jan 18, 2022 | News

South Canterbury has seen an increase in overall retail spending for the start of 2022, up 9 per cent on same time last year, but the hospitality industry might not be sharing in the windfall just yet due to sector-wide staff shortages.

Data released by transaction processing firm Worldline (previously Paymark) shows $10.6 million was spent in the region in the seven days ending January 4, excluding food, drink and hospitality.

The figure for the whole of Aotearoa is $696.5 million for the same period.

South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce chief executive Wendy Smith said the increase was a positive start to the new year for the region.

“Most retailers have been reporting positive trade,’’ Smith said.

Smith said with less travel, both here and offshore, families had been investing in their homes and ‘’local adventures’’ including bike riding, sports and water sports like boating, bodyboarding and surfing’’.

“With high employment, and a strong agricultural sector, we have a robust economy, and it is good to see confidence reflected in the retail sector.’’

However the figures for the hospitality industry are unlikely to show such increases with many South Canterbury businesses advertising reduced operating hours and many closures over the holiday period.

Timaru’s Street Food Kitchen announced on social media late last month it would be closing for all of January due to “staffing restrictions”.

Street Food Kitchen owner Jane Bowen said she has been recruiting for a chef but anticipated it would be very difficult before Christmas, and combined with other staff having already booked leave for January, decided it would be easier to shut down.

Bowen said recruiting is very difficult at present, and – particularly for chefs – has been that way for at least the past 12 months.

“There are none in New Zealand. It’s the same story everywhere. Between immigration issues and the closed borders, they just can’t get in.”

“Because of the shortage, chefs are able to shop around, so we’re all competing for the same thing.”

Koji Teppanyaki and Grill closed from Christmas Day until January 6 and owner Jonathan Kwon said finding staff had become a real struggle.

“It’s hard to come by people who can do full time, it’s mostly people who want to pick up some casual hours,” he said.

Kwon said he hoped to avoid cutting the restaurant’s hours, but with the borders closed and local staff so hard to find he is having to make compromises.

“We’ve actually replaced a lot of Japanese chefs with anybody we can get our hands on. We are struggling with this stuff.”

The shortages are not limited to South Canterbury.  Businesses nationwide are struggling to recruit the staff needed to keep everything open normally.

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