Napier CBD – the city of the future? Maybe not yet, but we’re pointed there.
For a city so rooted in history, we are moving steadily towards what is commonly recognised as being the future of CBD’s ‘experience centres’. Loosely interpreted, how you feel when you are in town due to the environment will be more important than what you can buy. Touchy feely town centres, here we come!
How does this differ from what we have now?
The face of retail and therefore the face of the high street is changing rapidly – the internet has shaken retail to the core and with Amazon knocking on New Zealand’s door, it’s time to take a hard look at service offerings and delivery methods.
Bricks and mortar retailing will endure, but what that looks like in ten years is a guestimate at this point. We might see less large format retail, more small format boutique offerings with mixed service methods (i.e. coffee shops in homewares stores, tattooists sharing space with streetwear). Think Ponsonby Central – the modern day one stop ‘shop’. We might see ‘click and collect’ service stations, we might see a significant decline in traditional retail and an influx of service-focused businesses. We might see none of this.
What we do know is that only those with strong customer service will survive. Savvy customers already question why they would buy an item for $50 instore when they can get it for $35 online?
In Napier we already have a great mix of chain vs. boutique retailers, a solid product variety and some fabulous proactive retailers who take pride in their customer service. Of course in this digital age customer service extends beyond the in-store experience.
Retailers such as Two Lippy Ladies really get this. Here are impeccably dressed, fantastically lovely ladies, with a beautiful store with great street appeal that are a pleasure to have in town. But they also have over 16,000 engaged followers on Facebook and a great website where you can learn how to master the quick cat eye makeup flick, buy their full stock offering, and pay via online lay-by (www.twolippyladies.co.nz).
These days, the cool kid in class is the hospitality industry. Paymark data shows the biggest spend increase year-on-year in Napier is the food and beverage industry; this is a trend throughout the world. Enter the entertainment economy – ‘stuff’ will always have its place, but jeepers, that daily coffee or weekly meal out is starting to look like a standard or prioritised expenditure for many.
Napier CBD is seeing the fruits of this boom with multiple new openings over summer (for example Kolachi Eatery, Mexicali Fresh and the Matisse Wine Bar). And the rumour mill is overloaded with tales of well-known Auckland establishments looking for locations.
Our problem now in town is lack of stock. To change a building from retail to a hospitality business throws the building code into hyper drive.Add in complications around heritage buildings and for many people change becomes cost prohibitive. Unfortunately, the growth of this industry in the CBD is definitely stymied.
As it stands Napier CBD does not lack for somewhere to find a good coffee. However, getting that coffee after 3pm might be an issue, and a meal on a Monday evening … difficult. Napier City Business Inc hopes to address this challenge with a new campaign, looking to launch in July, aiming to build the ‘after 5pm’ economy. It’s a chicken and egg situation currently; no one wants to open as no one is around – and no one is around because no one is open.
So this new campaign is looking to shake things up and change the way we behave once we shut down our computers. Leave your exercise gear at home and get your friends together. The best ‘meetings’ start at 5! More on this in the next BayBuzz.
Helping deliver our ‘experience centre’ is the ‘place-making’ activity that is occurring. A roll of turfed grass or a painted building might not seem that important, but all the best cities in the world have extensive place-making strategies in place creating moments to linger, to stop and chat, to simply be. Not necessarily encouraging you to spend money, but simply to enjoy your CBD, re-energising areas that perhaps have been neglected. While we may lose a few car parks in order to be able to get a parklet (think outside Georgia on Tennyson) it’s not the end of the world!
With art deco buildings, a plethora of street art, pop up spaces, the development of Marine Parade and a hopeful upgrade of Emerson Street on the cards, Napier CBD is primed to be both functional in its offerings and fun to be in – the perfect storm for a sustainable, modern city.
We don’t have it all right. We’re eager to hear what you want from your CBD. Check out www.napiercbd.co.nz or @napiercity on Facebook and flick us your ideas.
Zoe Barnes of Napier Inner City Marketing.