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Regional rollercoaster: Why some Kiwi towns are rising while others struggle

  • News
  • April 23, 2019
  • Rachel Helyer Donaldson
Regional rollercoaster: Why some Kiwi towns are rising while others struggle

In recent years, tourism has swooped into New Zealand’s regional centres to provide much-needed support for regional retailers, but what about the small towns the tourists don’t visit? As part of a new series, we examine what retail looks like in 2019 for seven regional centres: Paihia, Tokoroa, New Plymouth, Bulls, Kaikoura, Greymouth and Arrowtown.

Last year was one of mixed fortunes for retailers. For many, the mid-decade’s gloom had been replaced with optimism, thanks to a boom in tourism.

An increase in overseas holidaymakers and a weaker dollar boosted spend by international visitors, which grew six percent to $11.1 billion for the year ending September 2018. This growth is forecast to continue over the next five years. 

But tourism isn’t strong in every region, and many towns, such as Tokoroa and Greymouth, have been hit hard when lifeblood employers pull out. Other centres, like Paihia, contain both of these dynamics at once – it’s a resort-style tourist town in the middle of hardship-struck Northland.

Westpac senior economist Satish Ranchhod says that there have been some “starkly different” trends around the country. 

Spend remains flat in Auckland and Christchurch, but many other parts of the country have been boosted by strong increases in house prices and population growth. Regions with links to faster growing export industries like horticulture are particularly strong, he adds. 

Last year, spending in the overall economy grew by around 4.5 percent - “not a bad rate of growth, but still a step-down” from six percent growth seen the previous two years, Ranchhod says.

Many retailers have faced a “challenging” set of trading conditions. 

“Operating costs, including wages, have been pushing higher. We’re also seeing continued strong competition in the retail sector, particularly in the online space.”

Chris Wilkinson, managing director of consultancy First Retail, says 2018 was a stronger year in provincial retail. 

“The rural economy has stabilised, consumers have become more confident and are spending in the stores that meet their needs and expectations.” 

Ever more retailers embraced digital to reach beyond their immediate market.

Overall, Wilkinson says, successful retailers “focused on differentiating their range and experience to help set themselves apart” and those doing it well are buoyant.

Ranchhod warns that the economy’s current strong momentum won’t persist indefinitely. 

Seismic strengthening has been particularly tough on retailers in the provinces, says Wilkinson, “where investment will not necessarily produce an economic return”. 

But tourism is set to stay strong, and many towns are benefiting. Even those not traditionally on main visitor routes, such as New Plymouth, Porirua and Balclutha, are seeing an influx in visitors.

Strong digital visibility is “a fundamental” for towns and businesses to attract tourists. “That's what helps get them in travellers' consideration set.” 

Then it is “down to basics” like consistency in opening hours and offering payment systems such as China’s Alipay.

Prosperous regionalretailers have created “an aspirational shopping environment, have a great back-story for their businesses and ably tell the story of their town”. 

But whether its small towns or city centres, successful CBDs always have a well-documented strategy that brings everyone along, says Wilkinson, who works with councils around Australasia. “Those without that flounder, with businesses going in different directions.” 
 

Check out other articles in this series:

Paihia

Tokoroa

New Plymouth

Bulls

Kaikoura

Greymouth

Arrowtown

Selling to the Kardashians from Matiere

This story originally appeared in NZ Retail issue 760 February/March 2019

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InStyle names All Is For All’s Grace Stratton a ‘Badass Woman’

  • News
  • July 18, 2019
  • The Register team
InStyle names All Is For All’s Grace Stratton a ‘Badass Woman’

Grace Stratton, the 20-year-old founder of specialty ecommerce site All Is For All, has been named one of 50 global Badass Women by US glossy magazine InStyle. The list includes international celebrities like Mindy Kaling and businesspeople like Stitch Fix chief executive Katrina Lake.

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Wellbeing in the workplace: Here's how its affecting your staff, and your bottom line

  • Opinion
  • July 18, 2019
  • Elly Strang
Wellbeing in the workplace: Here's how its affecting your staff, and your bottom line

Idealog editor Elly Strang recently spoke at the Magazine Publishers Association conference about the importance of wellbeing in the workplace, and the key takeaways from Wellness Month. She shares why it shouldn't be thought of as a luxury nice-to-have, like yoga classes, as research is showing it impacts on your bottom line, as well as some tips on how to create change in the workplace.

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How HomeAR is incorporating AR into architecture design

  • technology
  • July 18, 2019
  • Courtney Devereux
How HomeAR is incorporating AR into architecture design

Many people struggle to envision plans from simple 2D renders and floor plans, as without a designer's eye, filling in blanks from imagination isn’t the most reliable method when it comes to something as important as building a brand-new home or store. Reactar has launched an augmented reality-based platform, HomeAR, to counteract this, which allows users to see and engage with homes in a virtual way, making the very personal process more reliable.

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Social scoreboard

Zavy and The Register have worked together to create a scoreboard that compares how the top 25 traditional media advertising spenders in New Zealand have performed on social media over the past 30 days, updated in real time.

 
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Simon West is the new chief executive of Torpedo7

  • Who's Where
  • July 18, 2019
Simon West is the new chief executive of Torpedo7

Simon West, who has 20 years' experience leading companies like Ezibuy, has been appointed the chief executive of The Warehouse Group's outdoor retailer Torpedo7.

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Bay of Plenty D2C Saltysea opens its first store

  • Design
  • July 17, 2019
  • Sarah Dunn
Bay of Plenty D2C Saltysea opens its first store

Stephanie Saxton has been selling cheeky swimsuits and ethical activewear online out of Bay of Plenty's Athenree since 2018. She's now opened Saltysea's first bricks and mortar store, the Salty Collective.

Read more
 

What the investment community thinks Kiwi businesses lead on the world stage with

  • News
  • July 16, 2019
  • Idealog
What the investment community thinks Kiwi businesses lead on the world stage with

Every business goes through a life cycle: start-up, growth, maturity and renewal, rebirth or decline. Once you’ve made it past the juicy, creative ideation stage and into the growth and maturity stage, the time for many comes to seek investment. But what do investors look for beyond a commercial return? And what do investors think New Zealand companies excel at when compared to our neighbouring countries around the world? Executive director of the Angel Association of New Zealand Suse Reynolds shares her top tips for those who are looking for investment.

Read more
 
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