COVID-19: New data shows business closures spiked 130 percent in 2020

COVID-19's impact has been laid bare, with new data showing business closures spiked by nearly 130 percent towards the end of 2020.  

Between September and November 2020, more than 16,234 businesses closed for good. That's compared to 7,154 in the same period in 2019.

A pause in the wage subsidy and a lack of international tourists are to blame - and there's a warning - it could get worse.

Wellington street-food restaurant Plant Blazed survived alert level 4 - but it couldn't survive 2020.

"We were burned out, we were trying our best to keep a business going on a day by day schedule," Plant Blazed owner Saije McLeod told Newshub.

The wage subsidy and the post-lockdown customer support weren't enough for McLeod.

"What was hard became extremely hard."

In October, Plant Blazed shut for good.

"I guess it was in some ways a relief, and other ways pretty devastating to lose a lot of work," McLeod said.

It was one of the many businesses that closed between September and November last year. 

Dot Loves Data's government director Justin Lester says the wage subsidy was a lifeline that held off the inevitable.

"We saw a large number of businesses that came to a close at the end of the wage subsidy period, and what that's showing is business resilience is stronger when the wage subsidies in place and once that's gone, that leads to closures," Lester told Newshub.

The worst affected regions - tourist hotspots like Westland and Queenstown.

An initial burst of homegrown aid nothing compared to the international influx they need.

"I'm getting businesses contacting me daily telling me they can't go on any further. This will take years if not decades to recover from," Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult told Newshub.

But there's a warning it could get worse: during the Global Financial Crisis, business closures peaked at nearly 21,000 between July and September 2011. That was more than three years after the initial shock.

ANZ chief economist Sharon Zollner says for many sectors the pain won't have been felt yet.

We actually had a period last year where insolvencies were unusually low, which is quite a strange thing to happen when you get a negative shock. But now, nearly a year on we are unfortunately seeing some chickens come home to roost," Zollner said.

Despite the difficulty, Dot Loves Data says new businesses were up by 28 percent.

And that includes Saije McLeod - they're now a personal trainer.

A silver lining amongst the gloomy economic cloud.