The future for retail in the Queenstown Central Business District
November 12 2018 by Steve Wilde
A lot of people have been asking: what is the future for retail in the Queenstown Central Business District? Their view is that it’s becoming harder for the traditional local operator to survive in an environment which commands some of the highest rents in the country. This is true.
What is becoming clear is that modern retail, in boutique destinations like downtown Queenstown, now requires a step-shift, in order to survive not just higher rents, but the disruption from online shopping, easy home delivery and big box retailers and their endless carparks. DowntownQT’s view is that we want to create a unique, experiential destination, backed by good infrastructure, public transport, car parking and a civic and cultural hub. To that end, our retailers too will need to begin providing special experiences within their stores.
Experiential shopping is not a trend – it is absolutely the future. It is shopping, where people make discoveries and can socialise. It’s a mix of independent stores run by retailers who carefully curate their offerings with artisan products. We already have some great examples in downtown Queenstown, with stores like Angel Divine, Williams Cottage, Decode and The Remarkables Sweet Shop beginning to demonstrate the art of experiential shopping. Rod and Gunn were on the right track, with the integration of The Lodge Bar into their store. It’s a great shame the regulators didn’t see that vision as being the right one. It was.
We think as rents become more challenging, you will see smaller individual retail footprints, more collaboration, with one, two or three different retailers operating from one site and the integration of food and retail, perhaps the best example of which will be the O’Connells Shopping Centre redevelopment. As the council rolls out its massive infrastructure campaign, which will see nearly $500 million being spent over the next ten years, the fringe areas of the town centre will become very viable for smaller, future-savvy retailers. Our locals too will enjoy being able to get into town more easily.
As it stands today local shoppers are very spoilt for choice, compared to towns with similar populations elsewhere. There is, of course, the big box retail at Frankton, the ability to buy anything from anywhere online and in downtown Queenstown, one of the best retail and entertainment precincts in the country (I say the world). And it’s all so close to home. The tough game now for DowntownQT, is to try and curate the mix of retailers. This is difficult, but not impossible. We work closely with landlords and have set out a vision which encourages landlords to think about who they rent their buildings to. Rather than the highest bidder, the end game is better served by leasing to the better operator. The landlords are listening.