Survey: Firms can afford to be festive

KIRSTY MCMURRAY
Last updated 08:05 10/12/2012

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Whether it's a low-key lunch, a formal awards function, a boozy knees-up or a barbecue for all the family, Taranaki businesses are keen on the Christmas party.

The latest Venture Taranaki business survey asked Taranaki businesses how they wind up the year and celebrate the holiday season.

The results showed 74.9 per cent of businesses throw a party, 63.5 per cent have Christmas trees and deck their offices with boughs of holly, 65.6 per cent give staff corporate presents and 44.5 per cent shower their clients with gifts.

Taranaki Chamber of Commerce general manager Judith Gilmer said she thought the level of Christmas excitement fell on management's shoulders.

"I think it comes down to leadership to influence how much the organisation celebrates."

She said the chamber wasn't doing anything special for the holidays, but is running a Christmas competition on its Facebook page. "It's a different way of celebrating Christmas."

Along with 16.9 per cent of Taranaki businesses, it is sending cards via email this year, while 27.2 per cent of businesses are sticking to traditional printed cards.

And it's not just Christmas bringing cheer around the region this summer.

Many businesses can afford to be generous as the survey results revealed 65 per cent expected sales to increase in the next six months, a marked improvement from 36 per cent in June.

Venture Taranaki chief executive Stuart Trundle said the growth projections were the strongest since last century and investment confidence levels were positive for Taranaki.

"We're a turbo-charged region, economically speaking."

The businesses also reported a hopeful outlook in their own industries, with 47.2 per cent expecting an improving industry landscape, while 43.7 per cent anticipate no change and 7.5 per cent think conditions will deteriorate during the next year.

"The region's businesses have reinforced the perception that Taranaki is the sweet spot of the national economy, and that the region's momentum is expected to continue."

One business with more than Christmas to celebrate is Bunnings Warehouse, whose new multimillion-dollar store in New Plymouth was officially opened when Colin Cooper lifted the lid of a barbecue on Thursday night. The new store created 43 new jobs, 41 of which have now been filled.

Steve Robinson was one of the hardware store's new employees and works in the trade area.

"I'm loving it. I'm loving getting up in the morning and coming to work."

Robinson's background includes working as a panelbeater, a builder, a train driver, a tutor, a singer and being in the army, and he is happy with the team environment at his new workplace.

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"It's just like we [Bunnings' staff] have become a family. And we've got the best view, from our lunchroom, in the whole of Taranaki. You can see the sea out one way and the mountain out the other way."

Trundle said it was important employers recognised the importance of the work-life balance in attracting and retaining staff.

A record 30 per cent of Taranaki businesses foresee the need to hire more workers during the next six months, with 27 per cent of businesses already experiencing a skills shortage or difficulties in hiring.

"Taranaki's rate of unemployment is the lowest in the country. As a region we've boosted our efforts to attract more people to the region to help our businesses get the skilled people they need," Trundle said.

"So far we've had a good response, but our top 10 oil and gas industry businesses predict 230 vacancies over the next year."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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