Shoppers out but businesses feel quake impact

8:22 pm on 24 December 2011

With many shops and malls open again after the latest swarm of earthquakes, Christchurch shoppers have been doing their last-minute Christmas shopping.

The city's malls and many buildings were evacuated after the 1.58pm quake on Friday.

The Palms Mall in Shirley and most of Eastgate Mall in Linwood remained closed on Saturday while structural engineers check whether the structures are safe and staff clean up goods which fell from shelves.

However Riccarton and Northlands Mall did reopen, to the relief of shoppers looking for last-minute purchases.

The quake also closed many supermarkets in Christchurch but by Saturday afternoon all but one had reopened.

Progressive Enterprises says the Countdown at The Palms shopping mall remains closed as the mall is checked but it expects to have the doors open again at 8am on Boxing Day.

The earthquakes could not have come at a worst time for businesses which were relying on a busy run up to Christmas to make up for a tough year.

Figures from the electronic transactions company Paymark - which processes about three-quarters of all electronic transactions in New Zealand - show a substantial impact on retail in Christchurch.

Transactions showed a drop of nearly 18% on Friday compared to the same day in 2010.

That was in contrast to the national statistics which showed just over $230 million going through the network - up $6 million on last year.

Landmark Christchurch department store, Ballantyne's, echoed those findings.

Managing director Mary Devine estimates the store missed out on around $180,000 in turnover when it lost half a day's trading on what would be one of retail's busiest days of the year.

Engineering assessments cleared the building as safe and Ballantyne's opened its doors again on Saturday morning.

Ms Devine says it's been a busy day, ending a strong week for the store overall.