Friday, October 15, 2010

Earthquake and business

I know, it has been over a month already - get over the earthquake!
We are in nothing like the condition of Haiti but there are long term consequences from the quake and I think various businesses are going to struggle for awhile.
There are things you don't think about and of course everyone wants to put a positive spin on things but these are the realities after talking to people.
Real Estate is really tough. Banks won't give loans unless there is insurance to cover it and insurance companies were having 21 day stand down periods to cover property so no insurance, no loan, no house sale. The figures for Canterbury in September were well down on last year. It is easy to look at figures and and let them slide off the screen but those figures are connected to real estate people's wages who were possibly thinking spring would bring good things after a very wet winter and suddenly it is not so pretty a spring.
The damage for many businesses from the earthquake was minimal. But talking to a commercial insurance broker in Canterbury there is a minimum excess on natural disaster of $2,500. Imagine you are hairdresser or a fast food place and sustained $2000 of damage. Even though you pay a hefty insurance premium every year, when it counted, you get nothing and have just wiped $2000 of profit off your year. That is a lot of hair cuts or curries to sell to recoup that loss. Then the broker suggested that after this big quake, Canterbury's minimum excess for natural disasters may go up to the same level as Wellington of 5% or a minimum $5000 excess. No doubt insurance rates will increase next year too just to make the little guy hurt even more.
Everyone stopped spending after the quake, retailers enjoying the upswing in sales with spring were suddenly back in winter again as people put away their purses. Just as things were getting back to normal for many retailers in less damaged parts of the city, the GST rise occurred.
Then there are the businesses still trying to relocate and find new premises. If a property is damaged so much you can't tenant it, the tenant can stop paying rent immediately in many leases agreements, but not all are like that. Also one company relocating said the offers were changing all the time, initially there were open ended leases that could be done month by month and then very quickly landlords were wanting people to sign up for three years. Some businesses in undamaged buildings, find themselves next to buildings badly damaged and either have to move themselves for demolition work to be carried out or have to contend with big cordons of wire fences putting off potential customers.
Then for every business affected, there are the suppliers affected and so the trickle down occurs. Restaurant suppliers suddenly have goods no one wants because either the restaurant is damaged or the restaurant didn't need so much because the central city was cordoned off and no one was out eating. Karl went passed a wee Thai restaurant in the central city one night after the cordoned had been lifted. The smells coming from it were divine but it was totally empty.
How many restaurants currently still shut owed money to suppliers and without any income coming in, I wonder if they are paying the bills.
Not only is landscape of Christchurch going to be changed with the demolition of a number of old buildings but the landscape of local businesses is going to change too and they really give flavour to a city.
Of course, the aftershocks keep happening too. We might get a few days without them and then another hits, rocking the house. They are now more an annoyance than anything but there is always that thought of, what if the next one is bigger, in the back of your mind. Christchurch definitely doesn't need that now.

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5 Favourite Sights Seen

  • 1996 Watching tropical lightning turn night to day, outside a little wooden church in a small village in Sabah.
  • 2004 Flying down the Rainbow Valley at 8000ft in a cessna on a clear blue day.
  • 2003 Seeing and hearing Michael Schmacher rolling out of the pit garage in his Ferrari in Hungary.
  • 2009 Chancing upon 100 or more dolphins just off the Kaikoura Coast swimming around, jumping out of the water, doing somersaults and generally having fun.
  • 2006 Finding a pool at the bottom of a waterfall in the bush at Kaikoura that was full of playing baby seals.