Small spaces, big ideas: Micro-retailing builds momentum in New Zealand

  • Property
  • August 17, 2016
  • Elly Strang
Small spaces, big ideas: Micro-retailing builds momentum in New Zealand

In high-demand areas like Auckland’s Queen St and Wellington’s CBD, landlords are commanding over $3000 per square metre in rent.

But instead of being edged out of the area, food and beverage start-ups who can’t afford the prices are minimising the space they need.

Businesses like bakers, juice bars and coffee bars are now taking over small rental spaces that were formerly used as toilet blocks and currency exchanges.

The intimate spaces are often a hit with customers due to how unique they are, showing bigger is not always better.

National commercial director for Bayleys Real Estate John Church says the trend is a relatively new phenomenon for New Zealand.

“Historically, space has never been a problem in New Zealand retail,” he says.

“The small, kiosk-style outlets and narrow stores that have been a feature of the main streets of cities across Europe grew out of a need to fit into urban environments that had their roots in the medieval period.”

Church says New Zealand retailers have always had the luxury of space on prime shopping strips, so they previously never had a need to go micro.

“However, the growth in ecommerce and mall shopping, the arrival of international and premium brands, combined with a marked change in consumer habits, have transformed main streets quite considerably over recent years,” he says.

Though the spaces may be small, the petite size can work in favour for retailers, too.

Bayleys research has found micro-retail shops can attract shoppers back to tired shopping strips by offering a new, unique experience.

Also, Bayleys says the face-to-face intimacy of the stores is refreshing for shoppers who want a bit of social interaction now that online shopping is so huge.

Co-founders of organic gelato company Lalele Organic Nathan Gutsell and Mulan Zhang say the size of their store has allowed them to bond more with customers.

They were keen to set up shop in Auckland’s CBD, but Queen St’s rental prices proved to be a hindrance.

Gutsell and Zhang decided to get creative and open a hole-in-the-wall store instead. The shop space they now occupy has internet, power and water, but proudly declares itself as ‘The world’s smallest gelato store’ seeing as it’s only four square metres in size.

“The shop frontage is very small which means it can be easy to miss and we can’t display all our products, but the benefit is the fit-out was economical and the ongoing costs are affordable. It’s also a great talking point with our customers,” Gutsell says.

He says the rent for Lalele Organic’s store is $2500 a month, plus GST and minimal operating experiences.

In Raglan, Ruapuke Artisan Bread sells its goods from a 2.8 square metre cubbyhole in the city centre.

Baker Jenny Carter says she didn’t expect the shop to attract as much attention as it does, with the store getting photographed most days.

“It's an interesting concept to maximise 'small'. I sometimes tell customers that I'm going to be a supermarket when I grow up,” Carter says.

Meanwhile, in Wellington, Gentlemen’s Beans is a 13-square-metre site nestled within the CBD that used to be a men’s public toilet.

While small, the coffee bar is in prime position to catch the city’s workers on the way to start their day.

Owner Belinda Beckett says there’s no issues that arise out of operating out of a little shop space.

“The small space in itself hasn’t been an issue,” Beckett says. “Every part of the shop is used to its fullest and we have under floor storage for excess stock.”

Overseas, big players like Sainsbury’s in the UK are testing out micro-stores of around 300 square metres in size in more than 1000 locations.

The stores target busy shoppers and only stock around 1000 food products. 

​ ​

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.


Direct sales: How multi-level marketing works

  • News
  • April 18, 2019
  • Sarah Dunn
Direct sales: How multi-level marketing works

The $200 million-plus direct sales economy contains many lessons retailers can use. As part of a wider look at this thriving corner of retail, we created a quick explainer showing how this business model typically works.

Read more

Direct sales: Meet the upliners

  • News
  • April 18, 2019
  • Sarah Dunn
Direct sales: Meet the upliners

We profiled different participants in the direct sales industry to find out what retailers can learn from them. Meet Isagenix distributors Adam Nesbitt and Bianca Bathurst.

Read more

Direct sales: Meet the business builder

  • News
  • April 18, 2019
  • Sarah Dunn
Direct sales: Meet the business builder

As part of a wider story looking at what retailers can learn from the direct sales industry, we profiled Isagenix distributor Ben Frost.

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.

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 ...
Window shopping: A spotlight on social media
Sarah Dunn and Elly Strang look at how ...
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 ...
The Innovators | In partnership with Spark Business
Technology is rapidly changing the retail industry as ...

Leveling up: Exploring multi-level marketing in New Zealand

Is the $200 million-plus direct sales economy retail by another name or something different? Regardless, what can we learn from it?


A spectrum of retailers

  • Opinion
  • April 18, 2019
  • David Farrell
A spectrum of retailers

In recognition of April being Autism Awareness Month, retail commentator Dave Farrell considers the role of those on the spectrum in retail.

Read more

How on-trend is your retail business?

  • Sponsored Content
  • April 18, 2019
  • Sponsored content
How on-trend is your retail business?

New insights from Visa highlight five evolving trends emerging from savvy retailers around the world. We’ve taken these global trends and looked at how they are playing out with merchants in New Zealand, and we’d now like to hear what you think of them.

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