Let's show the love to Whanganui businesses

Our retailers, hospitality industry, and visitor sector are still suffering the effects of the Omicron outbreak during this usually busy summer period - let's get behind them.

Early every morning, a steady stream of caffeine-loving locals dips in and out of Whanganui’s dependable coffee merchants, lifted and warmed by the contents of their cups. The faces of these cheerful baristas – if not their names and lives beyond their espresso machines – are familiar and well-loved by their patrons.

Supporting local businesses has always been a strength of Whanganui’s community, and caring about the people behind those ready smiles is now more important than ever.

Whanganui & Partners is encouraging the public to show support for the local businesses who are facing extraordinary challenges as the COVID-19 pandemic persists.

Strategic lead for visitor industries Paul Chaplow said it was understandable that consumer behaviour had been affected by Covid protection measures, but it was still important to support those cafes, shops and services that helped make Whanganui’s lifestyle so great.

“We know how much the community cares about and values our local business operators. Our hospitality sector and small retailers are under enormous pressure, and we are encouraging the public to buy local and support those people as much as they can,” Chaplow said.

“If you are well and can do so responsibly, continue to shop and eat out at local establishments and help those businesses survive this period, and still be around on the other side when these unique pressures ease.”

Mainstreet Whanganui general manager Des Warahi said local retailers were increasingly concerned with business being quieter in this typically busy summer period.

“We’d love it if the public explored our local retail businesses and made a choice to buy that gift, or new piece of clothing, or afternoon pick-me-up from a Whanganui retailer.”

Warahi said the community should take pride in supporting local businesses, “What might be an incidental purchase to a shopper could be a significant transaction for a retailer who has had a quiet week, month and probably year.”

Individuals making a small effort to buy local was the incremental support businesses depended upon right now, Whanganui & Partners acting chief executive Jonathan Sykes said.

He encouraged people to think about the impact their purchases, big or small, could make.

“We welcome the Government’s decision to offer support to businesses who have had a 40 per cent drop in revenue, we know that will be useful to many, but for others who don’t qualify the pressure on their businesses is still huge. Being down 25 per cent is extremely difficult for a business, and the uncertainty the community is living with amplifies that stress.”

Sykes said showing support didn’t need to be complicated. “If you’re not sure about venturing out the way you normally would, consider buying a voucher or ordering an item from a local business,” he said. Ordering online was a convenient option, but it helped to think about where that online business was based and who benefitted from that purchase.

Sykes said the cost of living had risen, and people were finding grocery and petrol bills had increased. “We don’t expect people to spend money they don’t have, but we do hope our community can think carefully about the small ways they can show their support for our local businesses.

“Our business community has done everything they can to adapt to each challenge faced over the past two years. They have improved their ability to trade online, they have developed great contactless processes, and they have found new ways to supplement their regular trading – they have proven their resilience and we are calling on the public to help these businesses continue to operate.”

Consumer spend reports for Whanganui showed the hospitality sector had been under particular stress as people travelled and socialised less. Chaplow said those hospitality and visitor sector businesses employed local people and supported Whanganui’s reputation as a great place to visit, live and work in.

“These businesses are incredibly valuable contributors to the lifestyle we love and treasure in Whanganui. This is an opportunity for people to get creative in their support of these local ventures. Buy a riverboat trip to gift a friend, try a new restaurant each weekend, get your partner a massage voucher for their birthday – buying local is an act of support for the community.”

Sykes said Whanganui & Partners was available to help businesses access the central government support available, and the agency was continuing to help start-ups and facilitate business growth.

“Our outlook is still aspirational and optimistic. We have seen the strength of Whanganui’s business community demonstrated in the exceptional environment of the past two years, it is important to recognise the pressure the business community has weathered and be realistic about the challenges they now face.

“Like most challenges though, Whanganui has the will and potential to overcome them, especially if we all work together.”

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