The survey indicates that Hastings retail occupancy has dropped 3.6 percent to 86 percent over six months. This is almost 9 percent lower than at the same time in 2014.
A search on New Zealand real estate site Prime Commercial shows 147 retail premises for sale in the Hastings area.
Premises in the Hastings CBD that were previously occupied by the likes of Whitcoulls and Postie Plus have sat empty for more than a year.
Further store closures and relocations are also expected to happen in the coming year.
Louise Thompson, the author of the survey, says low population growth and increased competition from shopping online means the situation is unlikely to improve.
“There has been a distinct lack of demand for retail space in Hastings and the outlook is grim unless a proactive and innovative approach is developed,” says Thompson.
While local entities such as councils, business associations and regional development groups work to solve the decline of local business, Thompson says this may not be enough.
“The global trends suggest that in low-growth provincial centres, the structure of central business districts needs to change with a reduced space requirement for traditional retail business,” she says.
“Retail occupancy in our main centres will not improve until shoppers are attracted to the core retail precincts on a regular and repetitive basis.”
In contrast, nearby cities Napier, Havelock North and Taradale’s retail occupancies are all higher than six months ago.
Thompson says Taradale and Havelock North’s shops are close to residential areas, so they are conveniently located for shoppers.
Havelock North has 97 percent retail occupancy, Taradale has 95 percent, and Napier has 88 percent.
The reason they are performing better than Hastings is due to stores being in an accessible spot, having boutique shops and staying consistent with international trends, she says.
She says Hastings needs to be revived as a popular spot for shoppers before retailers will come to the party.
“Retailers are attracted to places where people are present or can easily access, so regeneration and increased activity needs to happen if the occupancy trend is to be reversed,” Thompson says.