Flooding in Auckland is hitting the retail industry hard as it recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic. While the extent of the damage, and the subsequent cost of the recovery process is unknown, experts have estimated that it might cost the economy $446 million. Over 15,000 insurance claims have already been lodged, with more that 5,000 properties affected. The flooding comes at a challenging time for New Zealand’s retail sector, which is seeing sales of 80 to 85 per cent compared to where
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where it was pre-pandemic, according to Business Desk New Zealand.
According to a recent advice piece by Retail New Zealand, the most important thing that retailers can do is keep in touch with employees, and make sure that they, and their families are safe.
Retail New Zealand chief executive Greg Harford told Inside Retail that retailers across Auckland are being impacted by the floods in different ways. He said that many businesses have experienced flooding or leaks, which have led to store clean-ups. In certain instances, he said that staff have been supported with leave or shift changes
“Recovery will be mixed in some parts of Auckland, [and] the likely impact is a downturn in revenue from the weekend and subsequent school closures,” Harford said.
“Foot traffic levels may take longer to recover, unless businesses return to the central cities and encourage staff back into offices. Thankfully, school closures [are] shorter than first predicted, meaning foot traffic and staffing availability should normalise.”
He added that the rest of the country might be affected by supply chain challenges as a result of the flooding.
But, he hopes that the impact is minimal.
Supporting community needs
Retail chains in Auckland have emphasised resilience, and working closely with the local community.
Grocery chain Foodstuffs have shifted from crisis to project management, with its New World Newmarket supermarket reopening three days after it was inundated with flood-water.
As of January 31, two stores – New World Fresh Collective in Mt Albert, and Pak’nSave in Glenfield – are closed. The goal, according to the release, is to reopen these stores within days, not weeks.
The brand said that there had been no evidence of panic buying, with Foodstuffs having plenty of stock in reserve. Its Four Square store in Coromandel is isolated due to the closure of State Highway 25, and the brand was exploring other options to replenish the store.
Chief executive Chris Quin said that every suburb impacted by the floods has a shopping option nearby.
“At one point we had 14 stores impacted in a severe to moderate way, so [it’s] a huge testament to the mahi of our teams. It’s been awesome to see everyone pull together to make sure every community impacted has a local option to get their groceries,” Quin said.
“Every hour counts when you’re picking and transporting groceries – and while we had a few delays with transport, we’re in good supply and thanks to the dedication of our amazing Distribution Centre teams, we’re catching up and in pretty good shape
under the circumstances.”
According to a statement by the company, it had donated $137,000 worth of goods via its emergency funding support for flood impacted communities across Tāmaki Makaurau.
A spokesperson for supermarket chain Countdown also said that the grocery company is working closely with its food rescue and charity partners, in order to support community needs.
As of January 31, the brand’s Mairangi Bay store remains closed. It is working with food rescue partner, KiwiHarvest, to ensure that unsaleable food – that’s still good enough to eat – is redirected to Aucklanders in need.
“We want to thank our customers for their patience and kindness as we continue to work hard to make sure everyone can get what they need,” the spokesperson said.
“All of our team are safe, and we’re keeping in close contact with those who have been personally affected by the flooding to support them with accommodation, financial grants, and leave as needed.”
As of January 31, retail chain The Warehouse Group is operating as normal.
According to a spokesperson, the group worked closely with local community groups last weekend to provide vouchers and essential items. It is also setting up a service for customers to add a dollar to purchases, in any of its stores, to support Kiwis impacted by the floods.
Harford added that retailers have been stepping up to support impacted communities.
He said that these businesses have been supplying food to food banks, undertaking workplace fundraisers and ensuring that businesses remain open, so it can supply essential goods.
“Our message is for Aucklanders to get back out to support their local retailers as communities work to recover together,” he said.