Time and traffic, according to Crone, are the two newest barriers to shopping in Auckland. She believes it has become more difficult for time-pressed professionals to reach their favourite stores, and traffic issues compound that problem by both slowing them down and impairing their ability to find a park.
Crone doesn’t believe Auckland City Council has a deep enough appreciation of the impact of congestion on consumers: “There are lost opportunities, whether you’re getting goods into shops or customers.”
She says she would like to make it efficient for retailers to move their products and services around the city centre.
Crone acknowledged that the retail industry had been disrupted by digital change, but says she has noticed local retailers beginning to fight back by bringing in more diverse products which better serve their customers.
“You’re encouraging me to go back into your store to shop for products I want.”
Crone presented her concern for retailers as part of an overall focus on Auckland’s competitiveness internationally. She spoke of being excited about Auckland’s growth, but being frightened that it may not be able to keep up with its global peers.
“I think of Auckland as a teenager,” Crone says. “We still don’t yet understand our identity, we’re not confident.”
Referring to upcoming demographic changes which will increase the number of migrants in Auckland, Crone says Auckland is “showing signs of being an international city”.
Crone also led an attack on the Auckland City Council’s processes, speaking of “an amazing lack of pragmatism” shown in unnecessary paperwork; representatives not turning up to appointments and not signing documents they should do; and unnecessary objections to proposed plans.
In response to a question from the crowd, Crone indicated that she was in favour of simplying consents for retail fit-outs: “It’s not okay, you can’t hold businesses back like that.”
Crone says she doesn’t have the answer on what is the right balance between growth and governance, but hopes to spark a conversation about it. She believes she can get funding for around two to three major projects by tightening up on waste.
Attendees numbered around 40, many of whom were invited through the NZ Retail Interiors Association.