Toyco St Lukes (Photo: Toyco)

Auckland retail stores can open today – but some are staying closed

The move to ‘level 2.5’ means retailers are allowed to reopen from today. Still, some have decided they’re not ready to return to normal trading. Michael Andrew reports.

Despite the end of alert level three and the relaxing of restrictions, at least one Auckland retailer has decided to keep its physical store closed as an extra precaution against the spread of Covid-19.

St Luke’s toy store Toyco announced this morning that it would be keeping its premises closed “for the safety and wellbeing” of its team “during these very uncertain times”. The store said it would continue to offer click and collect service and deliveries, although a message on its website warned that it’s processing two to three times the normal volume.

The level three restrictions, which did not allow customers to enter businesses’ premises and physically interact with staff, severely crippled the trade of many Auckland retailers, restaurants and bars, bringing some to the point of collapse. Economists estimated that the restrictions cost the economy $450m a week.

Toyco owner Martin Monk told The Spinoff that his business wasn’t in such a desperate position, and had survived through online trading during the lockdown. However he said he couldn’t justify opening, given the risk to his 35 staff.

“It’s important that they still have a job at the end of this Covid-19 that we’re experiencing, and obviously their personal safety is important as well. We’re right in the middle of whatever is around in the community, being Mt Roskill and Mt Albert, and we don’t know who’s got it and who could walk into the shop and touch a surface.”

While Monk has ensured that his staff are complying with Covid-19 physical distancing restrictions, he says it would be harder to do this if customers, and children, were permitted to enter the store.

“We physically can’t keep everyone two metres apart and we can’t clean every surface. It’s just impossible for any business, I believe, to be compliant with those laws.”

Rival chain Toy World has opened its stores as of Monday, August 31.

While Toyco may review the decision on Thursday depending on Auckland’s Covid-19 community transition numbers, there are other business for whom the decision to close will be permanent.

Last week it was reported that stationary supplier OfficeMax would be closing all 14 of its retail stories and shifting to online trading only by the end of October.

OfficeMax has stores in Auckland’s Mt Eden and Manukau, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, Hastings, Invercargill, Nelson, New Plymouth, Rotorua, Tauranga, Wellington Central, Petone and Whangarei.

The closures would mean 55 jobs would be lost, managing director Kevin Obern told the NZ Herald.

In an email to customers, OfficeMax said it was making the difficult decision to close its retail network in order to adapt to a changing market.

“A retail review reflected the need for us as a business to make some really difficult decisions now, in order to better position ourselves for the future. The trend to increasing online purchasing, as well as changing office and work practices, compounded by Covid-19, means we need to evolve to remain relevant to today’s market.”

The company employs 635 staff throughout its retail and distribution networks and received $4.4 million in government wage subsidies during the the first round earlier this year.




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