New Zealand’s borders have now been closed to international travellers for more than six months, and international tourism – the country’s biggest export - has all but stopped. As a result, the relative importance of New Zealand’s goods exporters in driving the economic recovery will only increase over the coming 12 months, according to ASB.
Understanding the importance of international trade to New Zealand’s economy, ExportNZ Wellington together with ASB, established the ‘From Aotearoa to the World’ conference to highlight the road ahead for businesses wanting to know more about trading internationally, and help prepare them for a new era of global business.
Speaking at the forum last month, ASB chief economist Nick Tuffley said COVID will continue to dominate many of New Zealand’s decisions over the next couple of years so we must be agile and adaptable.
“New Zealand’s exports have been a pocket of strength for the domestic economy thanks to our COVID-free status,” Nick said.
“The safety of our exports has helped increase demand for our products. Going digital is very important these days because we’re seeing about 30% of retail spend in China taking place online so it’s really important we seize that opportunity when we are selling into that market.”
New Zealand’s export sector resilience helped drive the country’s annual trade balance to a $1.2 billion surplus in August – the strongest result in six years. This time last year, the annual trade was sitting at a $5.6 billion deficit.
Paul Gestro, ASB’s international trade consultant, hosted a panel discussion with RJ’s Licorice GM International Jason Clements, Antipodes Nature CEO Elizabeth Barbalich, Pik Pok CEO Mario Wynands, Director Miramar Creative Kristy Grant. All are exporters and all impacted by Covid-19 restrictions.
When asked if he saw any change in the way buyers consumed his products, Mario, founder of gaming company PikPok, said it has largely been business as usual since lockdown in March, but there’s been far more business than usual.
“Our games, across the board, really took off. It seems escapism goes up when times are tough.”
Elizabeth says Antipodes, a natural skincare company, focused on their e-commerce offering, using the time they would have spent travelling and putting it back into the business.
“E-commerce has always been a strategy for us but it has really taken off this year. We had to adapt really quickly. We’ve used the time we’ve had available to us to our advantage. We’ve employed people who’ve returned home with skills in the digital space, particularly, and onboarded three new markets since March.”
Does working from home work?
Asked if they had seen a change in staff culture as a result of working from home, Kristy said in her experience it was harder for creatives in the team who are often extroverted and used to bouncing ideas off one another.
“But for members in our digital teams, they’ve quite enjoyed it. Productivity has gone up too.”
Jason said for RJ’s Licorice, which was classified as an essential service, it was hard getting people into work initially because of the talk around health and the importance of staying home.
“After that initial hurdle it’s actually been really good.”
For Mario the barrier isn’t so much keeping his 170 employees engaged while working from home, the barrier is access to new staff for growth. “The gaming industry in New Zealand is going really well but we have to bring people in from overseas if we want to get better. We’ve managed to get by but it’s worrying because we’ve soaked up as much local talent as we can.”
The ‘New Zealand’ factor is even more valuable
Jason said observing spending habits this year has been interesting. “Overall we have seen strong global sales on our confectionery items, including significant growth domestically, but one area that has been hit is our health food business in Australia largely as a result of a reduction of on-the-go snacking and the closure of many health areas such as gyms.”
While all agreed this year had offered challenges for their businesses, the New Zealand Inc. brand continued to be of paramount importance and supreme benefit to them.
“The New Zealand factor is becoming more of an x-factor for us,” said Elizabeth. Jason agreed, saying: “New Zealand’s reputation globally is a shining light.”
Kristy said it was the same in her industry. “How New Zealand has handled the health challenges this year has provided a massive opportunity for us, especially as we stand on the shoulders of excellent work that has come before us like that achieved within the Weta Group and other pioneers like Pik Pok.
“New Zealand is the place where screen production studios want to come. We have a demand pipeline of work for the next five – seven years which is really exciting.”
In tomorrow’s commercial world trade will continue to be of paramount importance to New Zealand’s Covid-19 economic recovery. Gaining insights directly from experts actively engaged on the frontline and learning from their experiences is hugely beneficial for those interested in starting out.
About ‘From Aotearoa to the World’
‘From Aotearoa to the World’ is a conference discussing the road ahead and preparing for a new era of global business. ExportNZ, together with ASB, hosted the discussion with some of New Zealand’s biggest export names, brands, and experts sharing their insights on how Kiwi exporters can stay ahead of the game. The next ExportNZ and ASB forum – ‘From Crisis to Opportunity: Taking Hawke’s Bay to the World’ – will be held in the Hawke’s Bay on November 20.
More information can be found here.