As tales of retail doom and gloom filter out of the regional towns, one woman is working to band the businesses along the West Coast together. Rachelle Hicks has created an initiative called Shop West Coast that combines an online directory and a loyalty card that encourages consumers to shop local.
Hicks grew up in Westport and is a retailer herself who works at her family’s shop, Heritage Jewellers.
However, Hicks says the idea didn’t come from the adversity smaller towns are facing, but from a surprisingly positive place.
She says the idea occurred to her as a way to promote local businesses, although the timing couldn’t have been better with the struggles retailers are facing.
“We’ve got locally owned, unique products and amazing shops and all of those shops have Facebook pages where they’re trying to promote themselves,” Hicks says.
“Shop West Coast provides one place where we can promote all these shops and businesses.”
There have been a lot of downs and not many ups for the West Coast recently.
Hicks says there’s been a lot of blows with mining closures, which is causing the disposable income in the area to disappear.
She says online shopping has also been a problem.
“I think over the last 12 months to two years, businesses – not just in Westport – have been hit really, really hard by online shopping,” she says.
“But you can’t compete with stores and the interactive, in-store shopping experience, as you can’t get that when you shop online. Also, if you shop in your own community, the money stays there and the businesses support local sports club and do sponsorship.”
She says Shop West Coast’s features will encouraging local spending and benefit both visitors and locals.
“Lots of rural businesses out here are off the beaten track, so it’s a good opportunity for them to be on a website where they can be found by visitors,” Hicks says.
As well as this, locals can pay $10 to receive a loyalty card to all the businesses that on board with Shop West Coast and receive discounts and free gifts.
“So instead of having multiple coffee cards and loyalty cards, you can use one card at multiple businesses all over he place,” she says.
There are also benefits to be had through collaborative advertising, as Hicks is working behind the scenes to set up cheap newspaper and radio ad deals by multiple Shop West Coast businesses advertising on the same advert.
She says businesses can get a really good deal on a radio station like Coast FM or Westport News, as collaboration is key.
There are around 20 shops on board so far with another couple signing up this week.
The shops are mostly based in Westport and Karamea, but she wants to spread the word and get businesses signing up in Punakaiki, Reefton, Greymouth, Hokitika and The Glacier.
Service-based businesses can also become part of the directory.
To find out more, check out the website here.