10 March 2013
The rejuvenation of the Rotorua inner city is “too little, too late” for businesses, says Neal Hawes who is closing Idle Hour Book Inn after nearly 20 years in business.
Neal and Ailsa Hawes are holding a closing down sale for the books in their secondhand book shop in Eruera Street. This is one the streets around which much discussion was based during the local body elections last year regarding shop closures, particularly in relation to the grown of the city mall a block away.
The Rotorua District Council, under Mayor Steve Chadwick, has stepped in to help the rejuvenation of the inner city in a bid to help boost businesses.
Interviewed by The Mud, Neal highlighted how a number of factors made rejuvenation efforts difficult.
Twelve months ago, he and Ailsa decided they wanted to retire at the end of this financial year, so started marketing the business as a thriving, long-term proposition – standard operating procedure for many such small business owners.
“We tried to sell the business but nobody was in with enough confidence to [buy] and do something with it themselves, so we’ve decided the time has come and we’ve just got to [close down].”
Neal made the point that lack of confidence was largely directed at Rotorua’s the property costs.
“People have come in and said ‘yes that’s fine’ but when they’ve gone away to look for another place to rent, rents have been too high. I think landlords have got to recognise the fact that rents are far too high in Rotorua and they’ve got to be realistic."
Some people were also concerned over the advent of digital sales of books directly to readers, but Neal says this was not a problem for businesses like Idle Hour.
While he wished the council well in the rejuvenation of the city, he believed it was too little too late.
“Our previous council and the mall across the street have got a lot to answer for as far as the demise of the CBD is concerned.”
At last count, he says, there were 130 empty shops in Rotorua.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen. I can see why people come in, look at Rotorua and say ‘no, I don’t think I’ve got enough confidence to set up’.”
Neal and Ailsa have a 50 per cent sale for all books in the store running until the end of March. Books left over after closure will be donated to charities which can offer them in book sales.