CBD retail strategy ‘is working’

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    Shoe Clinic Invercargill owner Ben Fokkens

    A STRATEGY designed to support businesses in Invercargill’s CBD and invigorate the inner city is working, and still very much a focus for Invercargill city centre co-ordinator Kari Graber.

    “Spending is up 3% since the strategy was implemented. It shows it is working,” she said.

    Wellington-based retail consultants First Retail Group developed the Invercargill City Centre Retail Strategy last year in consultation with the Invercargill City Council (ICC), Southland Chamber of Commerce and CBD property and business owners, focused on the city centre bordered by Don, Dee, Tay and Kelvin Sts.

    Ms Graber said the launching of a new Invercargill brand, marketing initiatives to highlight businesses, including the City Centre News newsletter, and the development of an e-commerce site/website platform promoting the city and its retailers were among initiatives implemented so far.

    The website was averaging 700 to 1000 hits a month, 5% to 10% of which were from overseas, she said.

    “Businesses are getting sales out of [the e-commerce site], they just need to be more involved in their listings.”

    Another initiative to come out of the retail strategy was the introduction of several new city centre events including Matariki, Halloween trick or treating and Food Truck Friday, she said.

    “There are plans to grow these grassroots events further to give people more reason to linger in the city centre.”

    Ms Graber said the next focus would be around improving customer service experience, streetscaping (urban design) to make the space more accessible and usable, celebrating city champions and creating an economic development strategy specific to the city.

    Roading changes recommended in the strategy, such as reinstating the right-hand turn from Dee St into Esk St, returning Don St to a two-way system and installing four-way crossings at the intersection of Kelvin and Esk Sts were still planned, but they would be staged to fit in with other developments occurring in the CBD, she said.

    First Retail Group managing director Chris Wilkinson said he was proud of what had been achieved so far.

    “There were a lot of projects waiting in the wings, but the strategy was important to push things into touch.”

    collegiality and more camaraderie” with the business community and increased awareness about the importance of customer experience, he said.

    Shoe Clinic Invercargill was one inner city business to benefit from the strategy, Mr Wilkinson said.

    “Shoe Clinic used the strategy to develop a business plan and make some major investment.”

    Shoe Clinic Invercargill director Ben Fokkens bought the franchise from Allan White Sports in mid-November last year.

    Mr Fokkens said the strategy had increased awareness of local businesses and encouraged people to shop locally.

    The plans for the CBD outlined in the strategy had also given him the confidence to retain the business in its present location on the north side of Esk St, he said.

    “It gave me confidence to invest my time and money in the business.”

    Due to rebranding the store, a new fit out and providing great customer service, Mr Fokkens said his business had enjoyed a “healthy start”.

    Mr Wilkinson said a priority for the ICC now was to create a business-friendly environment and support the city centre during the construction of the retail precinct.

    “The retail precinct development was a huge opportunity for Invercargill, but the council needed to create the scalability in the city centre for other types of businesses and provide affordable spaces where they could grow.

    “The council needs to lead this strategically.”

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