Businesses in Blenheim are reconsidering Easter trading after a quiet Easter Sunday in the town centre, the first since a new bylaw was introduced.
Shops and cafes were allowed to trade on Easter Sunday as the Marlborough District Council passed the bylaw in March, hoping to capitalise on visitors attending the Yealands Classic Fighters Omaka Airshow.
But many stores remained closed, and the handful of stores that opened reported few customers.
Thomas’s owner Tim Thomas opened the store on Sunday and said he was disappointed at how few customers there were, and how few stores opened.
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“You’ve got to try these things. But I wouldn’t open again next Easter Sunday, based on how quiet it was. I thought it would be busier than that. Everyone visiting for the airshow was actually at the airshow, not in town.”
It seemed more independent, locally-owned stores opened than national chains, he said.
“Without those larger stores opening, people weren’t really coming in to shop.”
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Businesses that were closed included Pagani, Postie Plus, Bed Bath and Beyond, Hallensteins and Heavens Above.
Hallensteins assistant manager Troy Wilson said he decided to close the store as the policy change was too last-minute.
“I thought about it. I think if there was more stuff on in town, we might have.
“We need to work out who will be open earlier, and then we might be able to get more people into town. But this year it was too quiet. I’m glad I had my day off instead.”
Heavens Above owner Darlene Keenan said she closed her store because she would rather spend the day with family.
Cerise co-owner Theresa Smith said she had more customers than usual.
“It was definitely very quiet in town but because there weren’t many shops open, we did quite well and people did buy things.”
She would only open on Easter Sundays when the airshow was on, she said.
CREW owner-manager Susie Witehira said customer numbers were about the same as a normal Sunday.
“Lots of people who came in said they were disappointed other shops weren’t open. And some came in to say I was trading illegally and risking a fine, I guess they didn’t hear about the law change.”
She expected more businesses would open next year, she said.
“It’s early days. It’ll be interesting to see what it’s like without an airshow next year. But by the next airshow, I think everyone will be on board.”
Marlborough Chamber of Commerce general manager Stephen Gullery said it was too early to say if the Easter trading policy was a failure or not.
“It’s surprising those retailers stayed closed, but there are a lot of elements at play. There’s the earthquake, the weather, visitor numbers. It’s not a simple analysis, and it will take time to study it.”