The reinvention of neighbourhood retail

The reinvention of neighbourhood retail

Retail - Workplace October 2020

The reinvention of neighbourhood retail

There’s no denying that CBD retail in our major centres has taken a hit in the wake of pandemic restrictions and border closures, but the suburban retailers have noted an upswing in customers and somewhat of a revival as people now view their neighbourhoods through new eyes.

Chris Beasleigh, Bayleys national director retail sales and leasing, says changes in the way people are working and where they are working from, has heightened the appeal of both existing suburban shopping centres and new retail/mixed-use developments.

“With many corporates and larger businesses adopting more flexible working practices and including work-from-home in the mix, neighbourhood retailers have benefitted as people opt to shop local and support the businesses in their communities.

“We are social beings and need to interact with others during our working day so if the kitchen table or home office is where the work is being done under new working arrangements, then the local coffee shop comes into its own as a social outlet.”

Beasleigh says more people are now shopping, eating, drinking and even meeting clients away from the usual central city haunts and some businesses are opting to open up in fringe suburbs to capitalise on more-localised opportunities.

These suburban premises tend to have plenty of (usually) free parking, they’re well-located along main arterials, and close to public transport nodes.

One example is a new two-level retail complex in the Auckland city fringe suburb of Point Chevalier – built on land formerly-occupied by a car yard – which has proven to be a hit with retailers and businesses looking to cement a presence in this popular residential area.

Beasleigh says the developer, Frontier Property, has an established reputation for creating functional retail hubs with an earlier one in Lincoln Road, Henderson, setting the benchmark for a thriving neighbourhood development.

“The Point Chevalier offering leased down very quickly and most of this action happened post-COVID lockdowns showing that this sector has not been muted by the disruptions that 2020 has experienced.

“With more people working from home and employers reassessing their operational requirements, the suburban locations are becoming very active.

“The secret to a strong and successful neighbourhood retail pocket lies in getting the optimal mix of tenants and increasingly, medical and fitness businesses are the anchors.”

The Point Chevalier development has a broad range of tenant businesses including a café, gym, physiotherapist, chiropractor, beauty salon and an artisan bakery.

Beasleigh says some segments of the retail sector simply cannot be served by e-commerce – after all, you can’t get a haircut or neck adjustment through a computer screen.

“Sure online shopping has redirected many consumers away from physical retail spaces, but the service-orientated or boutique operators with a true customer focus and point of difference have endured.

“Convenience is the common thread and local residents appreciate that they do not need to travel far to find the sorts of services and store outlets that they’ve come to want and need.

“The pandemic restrictions showed all of us the importance of supporting local businesses and resulted in a new respect for those willing to evolve their offerings when times get tough.”

Many smaller retail businesses are driving their operations via social media channels and showing that if you have the right product, people will come to you.

“Like all successful retail businesses, however, the fundamentals need to be right, the service needs to be top-notch and the experience has to live up to the hype.”

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