ICC retail strategy under way

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First Retail Group managing director Chris Wilkinson (left), client relations general manager Lorraine Nicholson, Asa Cox and Samantha Howarth, of Storbie, and brand consultant Tim Christie outside Transport World.

PHASE one of the Invercargill City Council’s (ICC) Retail Strategy – the development of an e-commerce site and a new brand for Invercargill’s CBD – is under way, but some are questioning the timing.

Southland Regional Development Strategy Destination Attraction team leader and Southland Chamber of Commerce president Carla Forbes said she was in favour of Invercargill having a strong identity with a well-defined brand story, but for the brand to be authentic there was a body of work which needed to be done first.

“A brand is an umbilical cord to all the thoughts, feelings and emotions we have about a service, product or, in this instance, place,” she said.

“We need to ensure we have the inner city something to be proud of before we put our story in neon lights. I’m a fan, but question the timing.”

ICC Invercargill City Centre co-ordinator Kari Graber said the branding was needed so the e-commerce site could be developed.

“The brand will be tied to the website, that is why we are doing them together.

“It is a little bit chicken and the egg, but we need to move forward with getting a presence online for hospitality and retail and we need them all synced together.”

The business owners had been very engaged in the process, Ms Graber said. They wanted an inspirational, future-focused brand which would also help them market their businesses.

The strategy, developed by Wellington-based retail consultants First Retail Group in consultation with the ICC, the Southland Chamber of Commerce and CBD property and business owners, was designed to revitalise the area.

First Retail Group managing director Chris Wilkinson said branding was an important part of giving the city centre an identity and would create enthusiasm for the businesses and consumers.

E-commerce specialists Storbie was developing the ICC-sponsored website, which would provide a directory of businesses in the CBD.

Storbie business development Samantha Howarth said the site would lift the digital visibility of businesses in the inner city.

“We want to make Invercargill a destination as opposed to a gateway to other attractions,” Ms Howarth said.

Brand consultant Tim Christie said, with about 70% of consumers’ decisions now made online, the site would enable businesses to market their products and services not only to locals and tourists but also worldwide.

The new brand would make Invercargill distinctive from other cities in New Zealand, he said.

“We are wanting something optimistic, something with real strength.”

The branding was expected to be announced in early July.

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