We’re looking at seven regional centres as part of a series considering how regional retailers will perform in 2020. In part five of the series, it’s time to examine Tairāwhiti Gisborne.
Historically, Tairāwhiti Gisborne has struggled with higher unemployment rates and a lower median annual income compared to the rest of New Zealand. Yet the East Coast city (population 37,200) is surrounded by natural beauty, history and culture. It’s also the first place in the world to see the sun.
The city’s fortunes seem on the rise, too. Against a national trend, Tairāwhiti Gisborne’s tourism numbers have jumped up. Lana Davy, Trust Tairāwhiti’s city centre vibrancy manager, says there has been “excellent economic growth”, and the housing market is showing “massive” gains.
The retail sector has gone from strength to strength, recording ongoing percentage gains on the ASB regional economic scoreboard since 2017. In 2019 it topped it for the June Quarter.
Despite this, local retailers still face challenges, such as footfall, Davy says. Stock on hand is a big issue for smaller businesses and “can often result in customers resorting to shopping online”.
Solely You Shoes owner and longtime retailer Trish Falloon says online’s had a big impact. There’s a perception that “we are a very long way from everything. Retailers’ challenge is to get people into town and keep them coming back”.
Falloon is closing her CBD store due to the long hours and costly overheads. Despite this, Gisborne remains a “very special town”, she says.
Trust Tairāwhiti is working to create a vibrant environment with events, promotions and activities that stimulate shopping and community. Davy says a small town “should be like a whanau, where they’re there to support each other in their quest for a busy vibrant CBD.”
The vibe of a small-town retailer is “somewhat different” to a bigger city, she adds. Boutique retail stores often have “a connected, loyal, regular customer base” thanks to the “authentic passion” retailers have, and this shows through in customer service.
Yet retailers in Gisborne can learn from the bigger tourism magnets. “Our city needs to cater to the needs of our visitors, be open, ready to give them a unique boutique shopping experience. An opportunity to take a piece of Tairāwhiti Gisborne home with them.”
This story originally appeared in NZ Retail issue 765 December 2019 / January 2020