Squeeze goes on rag trade

Racks of coat hangers fill the old Seekers store on Fitzherbert Ave, Palmerston North, with no clothes in sight.

The store, now owned by Savemart, closed last week.

But it is not alone, with two other central city stores shutting up shop.

Women's clothing store Kimberleys on The Square is expected to close within the next few months and Catwalk on George St is in its final days.

Kimberleys general manager Stacey Mortimer said the business was closing three stores - in Palmerston North, Hamilton and Ponsonby - but would not say why.

She would not comment on whether any jobs would be lost.

Palmerston North City Council economic adviser Peter Crawford said an increase in retail competition probably pushed them out.

Palmerston North had a 9 per cent increase in the number of retail outlets from 2000 to 2013, according to data from Statistics New Zealand.

"The Plaza extension brought a lot of new clothing businesses into the city," Crawford said.

Savemart purchased the Seekers store in October, previous owner David Tait said. "Things were tough. The economy got harder, both in terms of people giving clothes and people selling them.

"The quality of the clothes people donated was decreasing and people haven't got the money to buy."

Savemart owner Tom Doonan said all staff were transferring to Savemart in West St, which would open seven days a week.

Lack of free parking meant the Seekers store site "never was likely to be an economic unit".

Massey University senior design lecturer Holly McQuillan said online sales were affecting the industry. "You can get Savemart prices, you can get whatever you want now. It's current stock, it's not the stuff that didn't sell last season and it's the same kind of price.

"It's really, really hard for stores to compete with that when they have overheads, like rent and all that sort of stuff."

Catwalk's owner did not wish to comment.

Manawatu Standard