Online competition blamed for store closure

SUSAN STRONGMAN
Last updated 05:00 05/12/2013
Naomi Ward and Claudia Hopkins
ROBERT CHARLES/ Fairfax NZ
GOT TO CLOSE: Naomi Ward and granddaughter Claudia Hopkins say business is tough when competing with online retailers.

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After 24 years on Devon St, homeware store Et Cetera is closing its doors for the last time on Christmas Eve.

The closure adds to a string of other New Plymouth retailers due to shut, including CC Wards and Benny's Books, which will close on New Year's Eve.

Owner Naomi Ward announced yesterday that she planned to retire and close down the store, which she bought 10 years ago.

"I don't want to retire but I'm ready to," she said.

"Another retailer came in today to ask what was going on.

"When I told him I was closing, he said he might not be far behind me.

"The internet has made a big difference, there's no two ways about it," said Mrs Ward, whose 15-year-old granddaughter Claudia Hopkins works in the store during school holidays.

Internet shopping has been pointed to as the culprit for many independent store closures, which have come hand in hand with an emerging phenomenon known as "showrooming," where people find products they like in stores before buying them, often at a lower price, online.

Mrs Ward said people sometimes came in asking detailed questions about products.

"I would think they were really interested in buying it and then they would tell me they were going to buy online," she said.

Competition from big retailerswith constant sales was causing small stores like Et Cetera to struggle.

Mrs Ward said she would especially miss her loyal customers, who came to Et Cetera to buy quality goods that were made to last.

"It's a a sign of the times," she said, having sent an email out yesterday to customers calling it "the end of an era."

Et Cetera was first opened about 24 years ago and has been at the same location on Devon St East for the last 20 years.

Mrs Ward said the store's heyday, after she bought it in 2004, lasted from 2005 to about 2010.

"Farming and oil and gas have been good for us. Taranaki is fortunate to have income generated by those industries."

As well as selling homeware, Mrs Ward ran cooking classes for adults and children and did demonstrations from the shop's kitchen that she had installed.

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