Lo­cal knowl­edge key to suc­cess

Mega malls of­fer variety but need not spell the end for sub­ur­ban shops, writes Louis White

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Prime Space -

MARY Urquhart likes to be dif­fer­ent. For six years she has been qui­etly go­ing about build­ing her re­tail busi­ness — My Is­land Home — in Syd­ney’s up­mar­ket Dou­ble Bay. Urquhart has con­tin­ued to in­crease sales year upon year, de­spite the de­vel­op­ment of West­field’s Bondi Junc­tion shop­ping cen­tre, which has se­verely de­pleted con­sumer traf­fic in the area, and against the more gen­eral trend of slow­ing re­tail turnover.

‘‘ There is no doubt strip shop­ping has been hit hard by the mega shop­ping cen­tres,’’ Urquhart says. ‘‘ Not only do the mega shop­ping cen­tres of­fer a wide variety, but they have the re­sources to pull to­gether for mar­ket­ing cam­paigns.’’

West­field opened its $ 1 bil­lion flag­ship Bondi Junc­tion cen­tre in 2004 with 330 re­tail­ers and park­ing for 3500 cars.

‘‘ Here in Dou­ble Bay we are re­liant on the lo­cal cham­ber of com­merce, which is com­prised of vol­un­teers and lacks mar­ket­ing skills.

‘‘ You of­ten get an­gry re­tail­ers who want more done to pro­mote their shops.’’

How­ever, her neigh­bour down the road hasn’t been as pros­per­ous.

Dianne Lan­des, owner of Si­mode, a women’s fash­ion out­let, has seen a lot of changes in her 24 years of re­tail in Dou­ble Bay.

‘‘ There have been many ups and downs but the last three years have been static,’’ Lan­des says.

‘‘ There are also far more op­tions for re­tail spend, es­pe­cially when it comes to elec­tri­cal goods such as plasma TV screens and so forth.

‘‘ But I do be­lieve that strip shop­ping will con­tinue to sur­vive and pros­per be­cause of the niche that they of­fer, no mat­ter how many big shop­ping cen­tres such as West­field are built.’’

The Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics says re­tail sales growth in NSW is trail­ing the other states, with this at­trib­uted to a stag­nant econ­omy and ris­ing hous­ing costs.

Aus­tralian Re­tail As­so­ci­a­tion ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Michael Lonie says NSW’s re­tail sales grew at 5 per cent for the year to May, but that was 1.4 per cent lower than the na­tional growth rate.

‘‘ Dis­cre­tionary spend­ing is down be­cause of the high cost of liv­ing,’’ Lonie says.

It

is

no

co­in­ci­dence

that

hous­ing ap­provals fell sharply, down 5.6 per cent na­tion­ally for the month of May.

‘‘ We ( NSW) are clearly be­hind Vic­to­ria with 6 per cent re­tail sales growth,’’ he says.

At least NSW re­tail sales are above CPI, which is 3 per cent, he says.

But NSW is a big slice of the na­tional re­tail­ing pie, with the state’s yearly sales to­talling $ 73 bil­lion com­pared to Vic­to­ria’s $ 52 bil­lion and Queens­land’s $ 45 bil­lion.

‘‘ I would say Syd­ney has been in the dol­drums for about three years now,’’ says Justin Ganly, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of re­tail con­sul­tancy Deep End Ser­vices.

‘‘ It is ob­vi­ous that Syd­ney peo­ple are spend­ing larger sums in hous­ing costs than the rest of Aus­tralia.’’

While Perth briefly chal­lenged Syd­ney last year as the city with the most ex­pen­sive house prices, the mar­ket has now slowed as the West Aus­tralian price bub­ble de­flates.

‘‘ Perth and north­ern Queens­land are do­ing very well be­cause of the re­sources boom, as is Melbourne be­cause of the in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment and even Ade­laide is start­ing to pick up,’’ Ganly says.

‘‘ The real ques­tion that needs to be asked is what will turn NSW around? I think that we need a new sup­ply of land to be freed up on the fringes of Syd­ney. It is im­por­tant to open up the sup­ply side be­cause hous­ing costs are tak­ing too much money and with credit card debt so high, re­tail sales are the first to suf­fer.’’

My Is­land Home is a Pa­cific is­landthemed shop com­bin­ing in­door/ out­door prod­ucts for the beach, the trop­ics and a re­laxed lifestyle.

The goods are both im­ported and made in Aus­tralia and Urquhart be­lieves that is one of the rea­sons her busi­ness con­tin­ues to keep sales tick­ing over.

‘‘ Dou­ble Bay has al­ways of­fered the exclusive and dif­fer­ent cache that you can’t get at mega shop­ping cen­tres and chain stores,’’ she says.

‘‘ It will al­ways at­tract peo­ple, but we do need to make the area more at­trac­tive.’’

Urquhart, along with other NSW re­tail out­lets, will be hop­ing for more shop­pers soon.

Pic­ture: Bob Fin­layson

Up­mar­ket: Mary Urquhart in My Is­land Home in Syd­ney’s Dou­ble Bay

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