A workshop held in Invercargill this week found that despite a drop in consumer spending locally, retailers are in good spirits about the industry. First Retail managing director Chris Wilkinson talks about tips given at the workshop and the surprising consumer spending trends bolstering the regions.rn
Data from Marketview has found Invercargill locals are increasingly spending their money in the North Island, with spending there up 53.3 percent.
|Spend by Invercargill locals by location||2012||2013||2014||2015|
|Rest of South Island||-4.2%||13.6%||17.2%||23.6%|
|Rest of Southland region||-6.4%||5%||10.8%||13%|
Their spending in the rest of the South Island was also up 23.6 percent, while their hometown of Invercargill only experienced a 2.5 percent boost.
But retailers’ spirits weren’t dampened at a workshop held by First Retail Group in Invercargill this week.
A group of 80 shop owners gathered from across the lower South Island, with some driving two hours to get to the workshop.
The workshop was hosted by Venture Southland and focused on helping businesses become more resilient to issues occurring in the regions.
Some of the retailers present included McKnight and Brown Menswear, H&J Smith and Brides by Donna Rae.
The workshop comes after a 2015 property report declared that more than 40 shops and offices were vacant in Invercargill’s CBD, leaving the main street at its emptiest in over a decade.
But First Retail managing director Chris Wilkinson says the workshop attendees weren’t focused on the negative.
Instead, he says they were focused on where their businesses where at now and what they needed to do to get their businesses to where they need to be.
“The workshop basically identified the key success factors driving retail right now, and then they [attendees] performed an analysis of their own businesses,” He says. “It was quite cathartic for them. Being out of the business for the day was great and gave them some perspective on what to drill down on.”
It wasn’t all bad news on the consumer spending front, either.
Wilkinson says while the dairy payouts have impacted quite hard on Southland retail, there has been a counterintuitive trend arise.
He says farmers aren’t going on overseas trips as frequently, and are treating themselves to some local retail therapy instead.
“While there’s a dairy downturn, people are looking after themselves a bit more and are possibly spending a bit more on treats and on themselves. Instead of doing that in Paris or Singapore, they’re doing it in their hometown.”
Another positive factor talked about was the recent tourism boom in the lower South Island.
Spending on accommodation in Invercargill was up 11.9 percent, and Wilkinson said this trend continued right through to smaller towns like Te Anau.
Gore-based Carvin Streetwear owner Chanelle Purser presented at the event, and said that she was started to hear a lot more overseas accents in her shop, as well as seeing more people hopping off tour busses.
Tourism has been hailed by many economists as a bright spot in New Zealand’s economy.
Tourism spend unofficially overtook dairy as the biggest export earner in 2015, bringing in $30 billion a year.
Some of other the key takeaways from the workshop were to focus on getting the customer experience right.
Wilkinson says speakers at the workshop emphasised the depth of connection between staff and customers and “letting staff shine” so they have permission to go above and beyond for customers.
Another focus was how to manage the long tail of a customer relationship by continuing to foster it online after they’ve purchased something.
Merino company Glowing Sky, which was founded on Stewart Island, was mentioned of an example of a retailer getting this right.
On all of its merino products its website is listed on the price tag, and the store encourages customers to get onto its online database in-store.
Having a strong ecommerce presence will help businesses looking to target the high volumes of tourists coming through the regions, Wilkinson says.
“It’s making sure that that relationship can continue online. Tourists may fall in love with your brand but live in another part of New Zealand and Australia and other parts of the world.”
More workshops around New Zealand are expected to be announced in the coming months.