Retail trade involves the purchase and on-selling of goods to the general public, without significant transformation of the goods being sold. The Retail Trade sector is one of the biggest employers in Christchurch city, employing 20,000 people. The sector responds to economic growth – as opposed to driving it – and has retracted in recent years as a result of the economic recession and the earthquakes. The Retail Trade sector is sometimes useful to evaluate the success of an economy as people generally reflect an increase in disposable income and/or confidence through spending.

Christchurch Quick Facts

  • Contributes approximately $929 million to Christchurch GDP (Infometrics’ Estimate year ended June 2014, $2010)
  • Accounts for around five percent of GDP in Christchurch
  • Around 2,898 business units are based in Christchurch (2014, Statistics New Zealand)
  • Has around 20,370 employees (2014, Statistics New Zealand)
Retail Trade Sector Employment Breakdown, 2014
Source: Statistics New Zealand
Sub-sectorEmployee Count% of Total
Motor Vehicle and Motor Vehicle Parts Retailing15908%
Fuel Retailing7804%
Food Retailing619030%
Other Store-Based Retailing11,70057%
Non-Store Retailing1101%

Sector Trends

Changing Geography of Retailers

Historically, much retail activity was based around the centre of the city. In Christchurch, as in most cities, an increase in the number and size of suburban malls and big-box retail has drawn business and retail activity away from the city over the last few decades. While the central city retains the large department store, Ballantynes, and some specialist retailers, most employees are based in the suburbs across the seven major malls (Westfield Riccarton; Northlands; The Palms; Eastgate; Hornby; Barrington; and the Bush Inn Centre) and at the big-box retailers such as Tower Junction and Northwood.

Earthquake Impacts

The earthquakes pushed retail businesses out of the central city and damaged many retail premises in the city and the eastern suburbs. Many retail businesses have successfully re-established in the suburbs; in vacant units; repaired or new retail premises; or even out of the owner’s home. Some have failed to continue operating as a result of the disruption. The temporary Re:START container mall in Cashel Street started the process of re-establishing the central city as a retail destination. As the rebuild continues, this mall should expand and new buildings should provide new opportunities for retailers to establish in the city centre.

Internet Sales

A global trend in the retail sector has been an increase in online retailing. In Christchurch following the earthquakes a number of retailers developed an online presence when physical locations were problematic. This has opened new markets for Christchurch retailers and now has the potential to be a niche growth sector for Christchurch. However, the internet effectively enables residents to purchase goods from anywhere in the world and the largest growth in online shopping is purchases from overseas retailers, potentially undermining the local retail sector.

Sector Initiatives

Developing Suburban Centres

The economic development of suburban centres and townships is a project in the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) Economic Recovery Plan.

Central-City Retail Precinct

The Christchurch Central Recovery Plan identifies Anchor Projects and precincts, providing a spatial framework for the rebuild of central Christchurch. Although there are likely to be retail outlets in many parts of the central city, the plan allows specifically for a Retail Precinct. This Retail Precinct depends on public/private partnerships. The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) is working with the private sector to promote options for retail development, ensuring unique, distinctive shopping experiences are a Christchurch fixture.