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:



New Plymouth





Selling to the Kardashians from Matiere

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

​ ​

This is a community discussion forum. Comment is free but please respect our rules:

  1. Don’t be abusive or use sweary type words
  2. Don’t break the law: libel, slander and defamatory comments are forbidden
  3. Don’t resort to name-calling, mean-spiritedness, or slagging off
  4. Don’t pretend to be someone else.

If we find you doing these things, your comments will be edited without recourse and you may be asked to go away and reconsider your actions.
We respect the right to free speech and anonymous comments. Don’t abuse the privilege.


Readings present revised plan for Courtenay Central

  • Property
  • May 16, 2019
  • Radio New Zealand
Readings present revised plan for Courtenay Central

The company that owns Courtenay Central in Wellington says it has big plans for redeveloping the complex - which is closed due to earthquake risks.

Read more

How to tell if you're a born retailer

  • Opinion
  • May 16, 2019
  • David Farrell
How to tell if you're a born retailer

Retail is a profession, but true retailers are born not made, says Dave Farrell.

Read more

Sustainable soap wrapper among major winners at Pride In Print Awards

  • Opinion
  • May 15, 2019
  • Sue Archibald
 Sustainable soap wrapper among major winners at Pride In Print Awards

A sustainable, heat sealed soap wrapper that is claimed to saving tonnes of PET plastic film, petrochemical wax and glue from landfill each year, has won a major award in the Pride In Print industry awards. Sue Archibald, Pride in Print Awards manager, shares more.

Read more

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.

Regional rollercoaster
What does retail look like in 2019 for ...
Concept to closet
Business coverage of New Zealand Fashion Week.
Town centres
A positive retail environment over the past 12 ...
Amazon Arrival
Keeping up with all things Amazon as it ...
The Retail Yearbook 2017
As we battle our way through the busiest ...
Hospitality enhancing retail
Some think food and integrated hospitality offerings will ...
The future is bright
We spoke with four retailers in their twenties ...
Spotlight on signage
At first glance, the humble in-store sign might ...
Red Awards 2016
The Red Awards for retail interior design celebrate ...
Auckland Unitary Plan
Auckland is changing. The Unitary Plan will decide ...
How to open a store
Sarah Dunn considers what it would take to ...
All things to all people
Kiwi retailers share their omnichannel strategies.
Rising stars
Retail's top young achievers.
Delivering on your promises
The sale isn't over until your item is ...
Retail in heartland New Zealand
Retailers keep the regions pumping, but how strong ...
Women in retail help one another. We spoke ...
The changing face of retail
Shifting demographics are creating big changes in New ...
The retail yearbook
With the help of experts in the retail ...
Retail rogues
We put the spotlight on staff training. Jai ...
Here come the giants
Topshop has arrived in Auckland’s CBD, David Jones ...
From retail to e-tail
Ecommerce has become part of the way mainstream ...
Window shopping: A spotlight on social media
Sarah Dunn and Elly Strang look at how ...
Loyalty in the digital age
How are retailers maintaining loyalty? Sarah Dunn, Elly ...
The Innovators | In partnership with Spark Business
Technology is rapidly changing the retail industry as ...

Inside Little Yellow Bird’s equity crowdfunding campaign

  • News
  • May 15, 2019
  • Sarah Dunn
Inside Little Yellow Bird’s equity crowdfunding campaign

Wellington social enterprise Little Yellow Bird is seeking to scale its ethical apparel operation to the next level with an equity crowdfunding campaign.

Read more

Auckland design agency wins gold for retail packaging

  • News
  • May 14, 2019
  • Courtney Devereux
Auckland design agency wins gold for retail packaging

As a benchmark for impeccably designed packaging of consumer products, The Dieline Awards this year saw creative agency Onfire walk away with recognition for fantastic design for their retail products. We spoke with Matt Grantham, creative director at Onfire Design, about the importance of a strong visual brand in the retail product sector.

Read more

BYO containers policy live from June 1 at Foodstuffs stores

  • News
  • May 14, 2019
  • Sarah Dunn
BYO containers policy live from June 1 at Foodstuffs stores

Customers at Foodstuffs supermarkets’ instore butchery, seafood counter, delicatessen and bakery will be able to have food packed into their own clean, leak-proof containers from June 1.

Read more
Next page
Results for
About us.

The Register provides essential industry news and intelligence, updated daily. And the digital newsletter delivers the latest news to your inbox twice a week — for free!

©2009–2015 Tangible Media. All rights reserved.
Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Privacy policy.

The Register

Content marketing/advertising? Email or call 022 639 3004

View Media Kit