Silly season trade serious for restaurants

REBECCA STEVENSON
Last updated 05:00 08/12/2012

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The silly season boosted restaurant spending last month but the industry is banking on a hot summer to bring in the bucks, the Restaurant Association says.

Electronic transactions network Paymark yesterday reported a lift in restaurant transactions of 10 per cent last month compared to November last year. Cafe transactions also rose 9.3 per cent and overall transactions were up 4.6 per cent on November 2011.

November transactions were also up 1 per cent on October's, in line with the traditional pre-Christmas bump, Paymark said. It handles about 75 per cent of New Zealand's electronic transactions made with credit and eftpos cards.

Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said the industry had two different stories heading into Christmas - those who are doing reasonably well and those who are still struggling.

She defined "doing well" as breaking even or turning a small profit.

"The mood is definitely not exuberant," Bidois said, "but we remain optimistic."

The industry was seeing some growth but more restaurant closures were expected. The association had about 1800 members around New Zealand.

Struggling restaurants would see how Christmas and New Year went and if they did not manage to bring in good income through that period, they might close, she said.

"People do rely on the holiday trade. Depending on where you are located, the holiday trade could be what keeps you going for the year."

Spending jumped on average 27 per cent from November to December between 2007 and 2011, according to Paymark.

Traditionally, hot weather was a boon for the industry, but if it rains "cosy" restaurants profit while those close to beaches or with large decks may fail to bring in patrons, Bidois said.

The total number of card transactions was 5.1 per cent higher than a year ago.

Debit card use increased slightly more than credit card use with a 5.2 per cent rise in transactions. Credit card transactions rose 4.9 per cent.

Hardware store spending rose 10.4 per cent. Other sectors recording rises were automotive outlets, up 4.6 per cent, and clothing shops - up 6.5 per cent.

Paymark spokesman Paul Whiston said it was great to see Kiwis getting into the Christmas spirit and spending across diverse sectors. "We hope to see retailers reaping the benefits in the coming weeks."

Waikato had the largest regional growth in spending up 6.5 per cent on last year.

Canterbury also recorded an increase of 5.7 per cent and Auckland/Northland spending rose 5.2 per cent.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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