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HomeNEWSRegional rollercoaster: Bulls

Regional rollercoaster: Bulls

What does retail look like in 2019 for retailers in Bulls? We examined this regional centre as part of a wider series.

Bulls sits on the junction of State Highways 1 and 3 in the Manawatū. Its quirky and memorable name, the wellspring of dozens of incredible puns, comes from a retailer. 

English settler James Bull established the first general store in the town in 1862. These days there’s a variety of eateries and retailers, many of whom play on the town’s name – from scrapbooking supplies shop Scrap-a-bull to sporting goods company Jumpabull. Instagram-a-bull life-size fiberglass bulls are dotted around town.

The local economy is hugely reliant on travellers coming through, stopping and spending. It’s two hours out of Wellington, but Bulls faces competition from nearby towns with good cafes and shops. It has spent the last four years working on a new ‘people-focused’ plan for the town centre that aims to provide more welcoming and coherent public spaces. 

Bulls’ joke around its name could backfire. You cannot claim to be a ‘Town Like No Udder’, notes the 2014 Bulls Town Centre report, unless you are, indeed, a town like no other: “To create some substance, Bulls needs to focus on creating a series of unique experiences for travellers”. 

Rangitīkei district mayor Andy Watson says Bulls is growing “quite dramatically” and the CBD is “quite vibrant”. A new civic centre, with an information centre, is due to be completed by Christmas 2019. 

Last year was buoyant. “Bulls is a rural area so what’s happening in the agri-scene impacts quite heavily. The lamb and beef market have been particularly strong.”

Retailer Juliette Arnott says her bath, body and home products shop, Scully’s, had a busy 2018. 

Scullys’ products, like blush peony hand cream and lavender sleep aid balm, are locally made and come in apothecary-style tins and tubes. 

Arnott’s parents, Judy and Gerry Scully, established the company in 1992. Sold a year ago, its new owners plan to export the product worldwide. 

Arnott remains shop manager and says it’s an exciting time. “The new owners are very passionate about the products and its origin, so want to keep the hand-finished and locally made products in Bulls. This is very important to them, the brand and its story.”

Passing travellers make up a significant part of Scullys’ loyal customer base. Others have been buying the range since it started 26 years ago. 

Scully’s has been online for 15 years, and sells to both local and overseas customers. It recently launched a new website. 

There are no bovine puns here. Scully’s ensures, however, that ‘Made in Bulls in New Zealand” is printed on all its products. 

“People really like to know where the product is produced. It is also very important for our focus on exporting overseas, especially the Chinese market.”

Check out other articles in this series:

Why some Kiwi towns are rising while others struggle

Paihia

Tokoroa

New Plymouth

Kaikoura

Greymouth

Arrowtown

Selling to the Kardashians from Matiere

This story originally appeared in NZ Retail issue 760 February/March 2019

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