Retail-friendly local government policy

One of the key issues facing bricks and mortar retailers is the question of how to get you in-store when products are often sold online at better prices and can be delivered straight to your door.

Some store owners are applying the “retail trifecta”, which includes creating great store environments, having well-trained store staff and using effective point of sale systems (POS)/back office systems (BOS) to personalise a customers’ shopping trip, giving them a unique experience.

Apple and Zara

Apple and Zara are world class examples of this. Some of their outlets are visually breathtaking, they have well-trained store associates who love what they do, while their POS/BOS systems help you buy by targeting offers to your own wants and needs.

These wants and needs already known from your previous purchases via loyalty programs or are discovered through targeted transaction marketing. For example, the checkout coupon software might analyse your purchase and make you a relevant offer.

Unfortunately, Apple and Zara are the exception, not the rule.

Yet, unless you are a store-owner in a big shopping mall that relies on a catchment area to generate your foot traffic, it’s up to you to bring shoppers out of their home or workplace and into your store.

Across the Tasman

Last week, I was in New Zealand for board meetings and to celebrate the continuing growth of our business with the hard-working CROSSMARK NZ team.

During my visit, I walked through several stores and suburbs, visiting FCO, JB Hi-Fi, Noel Leeming, Farmers and The Warehouse. These were all in and around major shopping malls. But the best shopping area I found wasn’t near a mall.

I was most impressed by Hurstmere Road in Takapuna on Auckland’s north shore.

Two years ago, this area was already pleasant to visit. Now, due to investment by the local council and shop owners, it has become a great shopping destination as well.

Granted, Hurstmere Road is a bit unique: There aren’t many retail areas where you can park easily, walk on the beach, visit beautiful shops, drink coffee in a park, then have a meal at one of the many great local coffee shops, bars and restaurants. Waikiki, Bondi and Venice Beach are all similar, although parking is usually an issue.

The parking issue

In Takapuna, parking isn’t an issue. There’s a mix of shorter-term free council parking, as well as longer-term paid council and commercial parking. The shorter term parking isn’t 15 and 30 minutes, which is usually a council’s way of gently strangling local retail businesses by creating a stressful time for shoppers.

Shopping is less pleasant when you shop against the clock and the clock has a big fine if you overstay your welcome. When you are on a time limit, you are less likely to enjoy your visit to stores, no matter how good they are, as you are focused on returning to your car before a $100-plus fine hits you. After doing that two or three times, you decide to take your shopping to a mall where there is often free parking.

Considering that the average person earns around $20 per hour after tax, parking rates that high are a major barrier to shopping: Before I can spend my hard earned money on the items I want to buy. I have to work for an hour just to park!

Local government matters

There is nothing more important for independently-owned retail stores to survive and thrive than having active and commercially astute local councils. Investment in council time to shape retail friendly policy helps shoppers, local business owners and local taxpayers alike.

If more local councils invested time in shaping retail specific parking policies and in shopper specific civic amenities in their local shopping areas, it would be easier for their local tax paying bricks and mortar stores to bring people in-store.

I highly recommend local council members in Australian and New Zealand visit Takapuna, in order to learn from their example.

As CROSSMARK CEO, Kevin Moore looks at the world of retailing from grocery to pharmacy, bottle shops to car dealers, corner store to department stores. In this insightful blog, Kevin covers retail news, ideas, companies and emerging opportunities in Australia and across the world. His international career in sales and marketing has seen him responsible for businesses in over 40 countries, which has earned him grey hair and a wealth of expertise in international retailers and brands.

CROSSMARK Asia Pacific is Australasia’s largest provider of retail marketing services, consulting to and servicing some of Australasia’s biggest retailers and manufacturers.

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