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.
Certain Kiwi cities – like Hamilton, Invercargill and Palmerston North – struggle against a perception that they’re a bit boring. But, if recent stats are anything to go by, ‘Palmy’ (population 86,600) is a quiet achiever. In the last year, the city saw health enrolments, a good proxy for population growth, rise 3.4 percent, well above the national average growth of 1.8 percent (Infometrics).
Meanwhile spending by visitors in Palmerston North continues to drive retail activity, with tourist spending growing 2.1 percent to $433m. Commercial guest nights also rose, up 8.3 percent in the June 2019 year and are currently at historically high levels.
Its retail scene is diverse, ranging from The Plaza, a shopping centre with more than 100 retailers, to George St, with boutique shops and cafes. The council has just spent $6m on upgrading Broadway Ave, once the city’s shopping hotspot, before its post-GFC decline.
Still, in the past three or four years, “a lot” of stores have closed down, says retailer Karilyn Andrew. They include larger brands, such as Annah Stretton, and “various gift stores”.
Andrew herself runs a gift shop, Urban Charm. It stocks products that are “fun, NZ-made and ethically produced”.
This point of difference is crucial. “Everyone does some kind of gift now, from the pharmacy to the supermarket. It’s quite competitive.”
Andrew already offers online shopping, but is launching a same-day delivery service via a new app. It’s aimed at her existing customers and will take on online competitors.
She hopes it will be a “game changer” that will appeal to the under-45s. “They’re a really busy group of people who would like to shop local but don’t always have the opportunity to do that.”
This story originally appeared in NZ Retail issue 765 December 2019 / January 2020