A regional curator with a twist is Shop Kaikoura. The Kaikoura-based site was launched close to Christmas last year, when local shop owners were struggling to cope with the aftermath of the 2016 November earthquake. The quake caused widespread damage to homes and businesses and chased away Kaikoura’s usually-reliable summer tourist traffic.
Shop Kaikoura was created by Ina Kinski, a Dunedin tech executive who had planned to spend the summer in Kaikoura. After the quake, she noticed local retailers were holding deep-discount sales to try to address a revenue shortfall of 60-70 percent, and saw the potential for a digital solution which could open up those retailers to the rest of New Zealand.
Shop Kaikoura strikes a different note to the other curation sites. It’s a grassroots, not-for-profit organisation that operates solely for Kaikoura and the businesses located there.
Although, like other curators, the site holds no assets itself, it features 24 small business and offers a look to inside the store and what is available for purchase.
Customers book online for a personal shopper to take them around a chosen store, by either Skype or video call, and show them what’s available to buy. After the customer has chosen what they want to purchase, the volunteer shopper will pass them over to the retailer so the transaction can be completed, and have the item delivered.
Kinski says Shop Kaikoura’s social conscience is what drives it: “This campaign is focused on local identity. The entity of a shop is its identity and a trust relationship is important.”
Kinski says the site was bust from the start, and the importance was placed on the money going back to the retailers, not to the curated site.
“I think the reason it worked so well was because it was compelling, simple and it came at the right time. People wanted to help, empathy and action are big draw cards.”
According to Kinski, “people spend more when they’re directly connected.” Which can be a learning point for other curation sites which have no personal relationship with their customers.
“People are wanting to go back to having a personal relationship with the people they buy from.”
Although Kinski is blunt about the need for change in an increasingly competitive retail environment, she acknowledges that it’s difficult for SMEs.
“For a brick and mortar suddenly needing to change its whole model to survive, on top of dealing with a natural disaster, it’s a stressful proposition,” she says. “If you had a business in Kaikoura you didn’t exactly need to be good at what you did. But suddenly good relationships are more important than good locations. Change is difficult with added stress.”
Shop Kaikoura has gained support from sponsors such as New Zealand Post and Health 2000, which is how the site can continue to operate. It is a perfect example of a curated site that features only physical stores in its trading, meaning brick and mortar stores without an existing online presence have an opportunity to grow without leaving the community.
Although the site has had a lot of recognition, it is clear that provincial towns struggle with change when it needs to happen quickly. As Kinski says: “Immediately after an earthquake isn't necessarily the right time to re-work your business model and it's rough to see people being forced to adapt.”