With most of New Zealand’s COVID-19 restrictions now lifted, many are eager to understand which of our ‘old habits’ have died. And which will be part of our ‘new normal’.
“We’ve seen this new confidence too in a strong lift in new business start-ups signing up with ANZ. This is now above pre-COVID levels and we are seeing many smart Kiwis with a vision and the willingness to put in the hard work.”
We are ready to resume our lives after two years of disruption. But for thousands of small business owners the real question is: how has COVID changed the way we live, shop and eat?
From Level 4 lockdowns to travel restrictions, supply chain woes to staff shortages, it’s clear the pandemic has been a tough time for many.
But I am pleased to report – as the country’s largest bank – we’re now seeing renewed confidence among our business customers.
Despite increases in the cost of living, recent retail card data from Stats NZ shows an encouraging bounce with seasonally adjusted spending figures now above pre-pandemic levels.
Coming into summer with restrictions eased we are seeing a reassuring lift in spending on furniture, hardware and appliances and also in our restaurants and hotels.
Dining out is back on the menu – a habit I, for one, don’t want to see die.
People are coming out for dinner to celebrate special occasions. They are booking early and dining in large, well-organised groups.
Corporates too are encouraging staff to come back into the city and spend time together – an important part of getting our city and our people back to normal.
Many suburban eateries are also seeing strong continuing trade with diners choosing to support local and catch up with friends close to home.
Though not new, it is encouraging to see the call to ‘support local’ become more widespread and a part of our new mindset.
We’ve seen this new confidence too in a strong lift in new business start-ups signing up with ANZ.
These is now above pre-COVID levels and we are seeing many smart Kiwis with a vision, and the willingness to put in the hard work, come to us for support.
Many of the country’s greatest companies started out small. So it is always good to see a new wave of businesses emerge and grow, making the most of new opportunities.
Despite the widely held view that a high number of start-ups fail in their first year, our data suggest, even with COVID, this is far from the truth.
Many are going from strength to strength and we’re seeing the vast majority of these new businesses still banking with us two years later.
Behind each of these businesses there are hard-working owners and staff. And I know for many of them the pandemic years have been relentless and stressful.
Resilience shows through
I’m really pleased we’ve been able to support so many amazing and resilient businesses through this period. But I also know it has been hard on a human level.
Finding and keeping good staff is tougher than ever, especially when many of those working in retail and hospitality are long overdue annual leave.
I know many businesses are playing catch-up. Some have been forced to operate reduced hours while asking the public for patience. They are putting their people first.
I’m confident in the coming summer months, as we settle into a ‘new normal’, we will see many of our business get back on track and pick up where they left off – finding in some cases they are stronger than before.
And as for the ‘old habits’, while we’re keen to leave some behind, others – I hope only the best – look set to stay with us in the years ahead.
Antonia Watson is CEO of ANZ New Zealand