Suitcase shop not packing bags

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Border baggage . . . Trents Leather Goods co-owners Dana Gray (left) and Karen Gray bought a Dunedin luggage business a month before Covid-19 forced the closure of New Zealand's borders. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

The new owners of a Dunedin suitcase shop remain optimistic despite Covid-19 closing borders and suspending international travel.

Sisters-in-law Dana Gray and Karen Gray bought Trents Leather Goods in George St as a going concern in February – a month before New Zealand’s borders were closed as part of the fight against a global pandemic.

“It was a bit of a shock,” Dana said.

Business had taken some hits since they took it over, Dana said.

Sales were negatively impacted by the “Octagon Experience” pedestrianisation trial of the Octagon and surrounding streets, which ran for about two months up to March 23.

She hoped the Dunedin City Council would refrain from making any changes which could stop shoppers visiting George St, such as pedestrianisation.

“We need traffic flow,” Dana said.

The shop closed between March 23 and May 14 as the nation worked to eradicate Covid-19.

The pair thanked their landlord Oakwood Properties for providing rent relief and support.

Since reopening, sales in the shop were “slow” in Alert Level 2 and “improving” in Level 1, Dana said.

Traditionally, most of the goods sold in the shop were a mix of luggage and travel accessories.

To combat the border closure, a move had been made to diversify the stock by extending the range of backpacks, handbags, satchels and wallets.

The pair hoped the Government would let people travel between New Zealand and Australia to boost suitcase sales.

Suitcase sales in the shop traditionally spiked between March and September, Dana said.

“We are missing those sales.”

People had been buying suitcases since restrictions lifted, but it was mostly smaller models for domestic travel, Dana said.

Since lockdown, the Government’s wage subsidy and its extension was helping them “keep on” two staff in part-time work and themselves in full-time work.

Before buying the business, Dana worked in retail sales at H&J Smith Dunedin and Karen as a teacher’s aide at Silverstream School.

The Grey family had a history of retail in Dunedin.

Their mother-in-law and her sister-in-law had once owned Young’s Footwear in Green Island, a shoe retailer.

“We followed suit – which is quite cool,” Dana said.

“We are a close family,” Karen said.