Part four of our series on regional retailers brings us to Napier and Hastings. We profile several local retailers to get an idea of their towns’ struggles and successes.
The Hawkes Bay’s “twin cities”, Napier and Hastings, are known for their sibling rivalry. But in the 1980s and 90s, Hastings was hit hard by the closure of two freezing works. Meanwhile coastal Napier reinvented itself as the ‘Art Deco Capital of the World’, attracting new residents, tourists and cruise ships.
Recently, however, Hastings has seen a revival. Many of its 20- and 30-somethings who grew up there returning, drawn by lower house prices. There’s a new slogan, ‘Hastings Proud’, and businesses and employers, from Kiwibank to the Eastern District police, are moving in or expanding.
Despite the two cities’ distinct images, the Napier-Hastings urban area (134,500; June 2018) is in fact densely populated, with its combined population on a par with Tauranga or Dunedin.
Its balmy climate lures scores of retirees. In recent years, Napier, in particular, has attracted the over-65s, many from Auckland and drawn by cheaper house prices. According to Stats NZ, in 2018 around 20 percent of the Napier population were aged over 65, in contrast to the national average, 15 percent.
Tourism in the wider Hawke’s Bay Region continues to support retail spending in Napier and Hastings. Spending by tourists rose 2.7 percent in the June 2019 year to an “unprecedented” $660m, says Olsen.
Husband-and-wife bookshop owners James and Megan Landon are unlikely to get parochial about which city is better: they have a stake in both. Since 2005 they’ve owned long-running independent Napier bookshop Beattie and Forbes. Originally in the CBD, it’s now in Ahuriri – Napier’s former port turned upmarket seaside village. In 2011 they joined Kmart in the Hastings shopping centre Bay Plaza, with Plaza Books.
Plaza Books is “indie, but with a more corporate look, and more deal-led” while Beattie and Forbes is “rather more cosy and old-school”, says James who manages Plaza.
Megan, who manages Beattie, says it’s crucial to “deliver what your local customers want and keep listening to them because these needs change.” The Landons are competing with big book chains, adds James, “however that does not mean we have to copy them”.
Ahuriri includes a large number of wealthy retirees, and Beattie and Forbes is close to the upmarket Princess Alexandra Retirement Village. The store’s children’s section is “firmly aimed” at those buyers.
Christmas sees Beattie’s regular customers bring in a list of names “knowing we can select the next great book for their children, grandchildren, and increasingly great-grandchildren, and that our wrapping fairy will make it a special gift,” says Megan. “They also appreciate that we can post it all in one transaction if needed.”
This story originally appeared in NZ Retail issue 765 December 2019 / January 2020