2020 vision: The outlook for Timaru and Ōamaru

  • News
  • January 7, 2020
  • Rachel Helyer Donaldson
2020 vision: The outlook for Timaru and Ōamaru

Timaru and Ōamaru, both in the lower South Island, are a good example of how some towns develop a narrative that attracts tourists while others don’t. 

But it’s not all roses for retailers, even in a town that’s internationally renowned, such as Ōamaru. 

The north Otago town, population around 14,400, is famous for its Victorian buildings made of local limestone, or Ōamaru stone. It has also put significant effort into developing its Steampunk Festival. It’s paid off: Lonely Planet dubbed it “New Zealand’s coolest town” in 2014, while The Guardian named it “the Steampunk Capital of the world” in 2016. 

Up the coast is Timaru, a South Canterbury port city which services the farming community. Its population is more than double (around 29,100), and natural beauty abounds, with sandy beaches, inland lakes and kororā (little blue penguins). Yet it’s arguably less well-known, lacking the sort of USP which tourists love and Ōamaru boasts. 

Ōamaru and its surrounds saw great growth in the tourism in the past year. Tourism activity in the Waitaki District rose 4.9 percent over the June 2019 year and this helped to boost retail outcomes, says Infometrics.

Timaru performed well, too, however, thanks to strong dairy out-turns and low unemployment (2.1 percent).  Both factors provided added economic stimulus to the area. 

Tourism spending in the Timaru area also remains strong, although it is vulnerable to a potential fall in international tourist arrivals. 

Back in Ōamaru, not all retailers have benefited from tourism. Visitors flock to the town’s old part of town and the Harbour St precinct, while the town centre flounders. Anecdotally, there are around 12 empty retail or office spaces in the main street.

The Waitaki District Council’s marketing focus and its Harbour Strategy project is drawing business away from the main part of town, says Design Federation owner Annabel Berry, the driving force behind the new Ōamaru Business Collective. 

She’s concerned that Ōamaru is not being looked at as a whole. “The priority has to be the town centre and ensuring we have a bright and vibrant future for our local business community first.”

The collective has held launched a successful ‘shop local’ event, Shoptober, and six pre-Christmas late nights. It’s also working with the council to create “a better town” for community gatherings and events which support retail. 

Whether they’re steampunk shops or main street stores, Berry says all Ōamaru retailers should focus on “what brings us all together and that is limestone… it’s the one aspect that sets us apart from other towns”. 

“The better we look and the more pride we have in our town, the more people will be attracted to shop and visit there.” 

 Timaru, too, is also looking to transform its centre. The Timaru CBD Group was formed in 2017 and retailers form a key part of this, says Nigel Davenport, chief executive for Timaru’s economic development agency Aoraki Development.

Initiatives include extending free car parking time in the main street, holding festivals and street parties and a ‘light up the town’ project with fairy lights in trees. 

“All of these activities help to make the CBD a vibrant and attractive place to come to and that in turn helps bring potential shoppers into town for the retailers.”

For Timaru the emphasis is on attracting locals. Most of its retail trade comes from the surrounding district, says Davenport. 

This is true for womenswear shop Fashion Focus, whose customers are predominantly from Timaru, Geraldine and Waimate, says owner Suzanne Talbot.

Fashion Focus stocks the largest selection of occasionwear south of Christchurch, she says. But it’s difficult to compete pricewise with larger chains. Fashion Focus concentrates on providing top quality products and “building strong ongoing relationships” with existing customers.

“We would be more than happy to have more tourists through the door, however we are focused on servicing our locals and providing a positive, welcoming space where they can buy current fashions.”

This story originally appeared in NZ Retail issue 765 December 2019 / January 2020

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.


Read it again: Best of The Register’s retail fit-out stories

  • News
  • January 20, 2020
  • The Register team
Read it again: Best of The Register’s retail fit-out stories

While you’re working through the summer break, we’re providing some reading material from our archives to keep you busy. This time, we’re looking at top fit-outs and premises.

Read more

2020 vision: Tairāwhiti Gisborne in retail

  • News
  • January 16, 2020
  • Rachel Helyer Donaldson
2020 vision: Tairāwhiti Gisborne in retail

We're looking at seven regional centres as part of a series considering how regional retailers will perform in 2020. In part five of the series, it's time to examine Tairāwhiti Gisborne.

Read more

2020 vision: Retailing in Napier and Hastings today

  • News
  • January 15, 2020
  • Rachel Helyer Donaldson
2020 vision: Retailing in Napier and Hastings today

Part four of our series on regional retailers brings us to Napier and Hastings. We profile several local retailers to get an idea of their towns' struggles and successes.

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.

2020 vision
What does the next decade have in store ...
Concept to closet
Business coverage of New Zealand Fashion Week.
Regional rollercoaster
What does retail look like in 2019 for ...
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 ...
The future is bright
We spoke with four retailers in their twenties ...
Hospitality enhancing retail
Some think food and integrated hospitality offerings will ...
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 ...
All things to all people
Kiwi retailers share their omnichannel strategies.
How to open a store
Sarah Dunn considers what it would take to ...
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 ...
Loyalty in the digital age
How are retailers maintaining loyalty? Sarah Dunn, Elly ...
Window shopping: A spotlight on social media
Sarah Dunn and Elly Strang look at how ...
The Innovators | In partnership with Spark Business
Technology is rapidly changing the retail industry as ...

Read it again: Best of The Register’s staff management stories

  • News
  • January 13, 2020
  • The Register team
 Read it again: Best of The Register’s staff management stories

So, you’re working through the Christmas break. We understand. We’re sharing The Register’s top stories to keep you company – today, you’ll find a selection of advice-filled articles on managing staff.

Read more

2020 vision: What's in store for Palmerston North

  • News
  • January 9, 2020
  • Rachel Helyer Donaldson
2020 vision: What's in store for Palmerston North

We're looking at seven regional centres as part of a series considering how regional retailers will perform in 2020. Today, it's Palmerston North's turn.

Read more

Read it again: Top retail longreads of 2019

  • News
  • January 6, 2020
  • The Register team
Read it again: Top retail longreads of 2019

Over the summer, the NZ Retail and The Register team is sharing some of our best stories from 2019. Here’s our favourite longreads for your browsing pleasure – just click the headings.

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