We're examining seven regional towns as part of a wider series. This time, it's Arrowtown under the microscope.
Arrowtown’s leafy main street, boutique shops and historic goldminers’ cottages make it a tourist magnet.
With at least 650,000 people visiting the picturesque, Insta-worthy town every year, it might seem Arrowtown retailers have it easy. But it hasn’t always been so, says Arrowtown Promotion and Business Association (APBA) project co-ordinator Sue Patterson.
Things were “quite dire” for two or three years after the 2011 Christchurch quake. But the APBA used that period to promote the town and it’s now paying off, she says.
With a lot of family-owned businesses and little room to expand, Arrowtown’s retail mix has not changed that much over the years, says The Jade & Opal Factory manager Lisa Marshall.
Yet it’s definitely got busier. Queenstown has become a lot more commercial, she believes, and this gives Arrowtown a point of difference.
“It’s such a unique little town. Queenstown has lost its mum and pop businesses, it’s all chain stores. It’s still the most beautiful spot in the world but it has lost its identity a bit.”
Patterson says the quality and range of restaurants brings people in, and recent developments around the Lakes District, such as Shotover Country, Lake Hayes and Arthur’s Point, have led to population growth. There are no hotels, but more visitors are staying in town thanks to rental companies like Bookabach and Airbnb.
The town has a wealth of heritage, including the Chinese Settlement, a partially reconstructed 1860s village of Chinese gold miners. This gives the town a point of difference that adds to its story, says Patterson.
“It’s not an artificial old gold-mining town that’s been created to attract tourists, it is a real working village and that’s part of the charm.”
Opened more than four decades ago, The Jade & Opal Factory has the region’s only working pounamu carving factory.
Ninety percent of customers are international tourists, of which 40 percent are from China.
European visitors were down last year. But Marshall says 2018 was “pretty good actually”. She’s feeling positive about 2019, too. “Talking to different tour operators, I think it’s going to be another busy year.”
Check out other articles in the series:
Selling to the Kardashians from Matiere
This story originally appeared in NZ Retail issue 760 February/March 2019