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Southland shop owners rally together to overcome provincial retail challenges

  • News
  • March 31, 2016
  • Elly Strang
Southland shop owners rally together to overcome provincial retail challenges
Invercargill's main street.

Venture Southland has organised an interactive workshop for retailers in the South Island who want their businesses to become more resilient to issues occurring in the regions.

The workshop was developed by First Retail Group and has been organised in part as a result of the problems Invercargill has been facing with its town centre.

Sales in several retail categories have dropped significantly over the past few years, including clothing and footwear, which is down 8.6 percent in sales.

Last year, it was reported that more than 40 shops and offices were vacant in Invercargill’s CBD, leaving the main street at its emptiest in over a decade.

Wilkinson says this is the result of spending attrition, economic issues and expenses related to the earthquake strengthening of old buildings.

“The larger businesses will be reluctant to spend money on their premises because of the fragility of the buildings, but equally there will be a resistance from the larger corporate type businesses to locate in Invercargill if they can’t find suitable premises,” he says.

If businesses forgo having a shop or office in the CBD, this has a knock-on effect to the economy, he says.

He says consumers choose to shop outside of the area or online where there’s more choice.

Meanwhile, less offices in the CBD means less foot traffic to keep stores afloat.

Big-box retailing has also contributed to the problems the CBD is facing, with many ‘one-stop shops’ located on the fringes of Invercargill’s town centre.

As people have to travel by car to get to them, they’re less likely to stop elsewhere like the main street, Wilkinson says.

A strong turnout of Invercargill store owners is expected at the workshop, but the event isn’t exclusive to just locals.

Retailers are also welcome from out of town, with some attendees travelling from places like Te Anau, Gore, Winton and Lumsden.

The workshop will tackle the big questions for retailers, like what trends are worth paying attention to, what customers are craving in terms of an in-store experience and how to effectively be online and use ecommerce.

Wilkinson says the morning part of the workshop will be about the customer experience and key trends, like purposeful shopping, while the afternoon section will be about ecommerce.

Several people will be on hand to talk about these topics, including Chanelle Purser, owner of the award-winning Carvin Streetwear in Gore.

Wilkinson says retailers in provincial towns - and even in cities - often don’t adapt on a continuous basis to changing consumer wants and needs.

“The goal is to help retailers meet and understand the market,” he says.

The event will kick off at 9:30am on Wednesday April 20 and will be held at the Kelvin Hotel in Invercargill’s CBD.

Anyone wanting to enquire about the event should get in touch with Rhiannon Suter at Venture Southland by emailing Rhiannon@VentureSouthland.co.nz.

For those that aren’t close by but are keen to attend the workshop, Wilkinson says to keep an eye out, as there will be more workshops happening around New Zealand in the future.

If you’re interested in the issues facing provincial retailers, keep an eye out for a feature on retailing in New Zealand’s small towns in the April/May edition of NZRetail Magazine. 

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