If you build it they will come!

This attractive starry lit promenade is Hastings Street in Noosa,  IMG_1990certainly one of my most favourite places in the world! A recent holiday there started me thinking about the ‘Field of dreams’ maxim for developers above in regard to how to create an attractive shopping street where people will want to go. Contrasting Hastings Street with the numerous For Lease signs in Willis Street and Queens Drive, I decided to pose this question to Allistar Cox, Wellington architect and designer of numerous hip restaurants and bars including the Mojo coffee chain.

I met with Allistar in his very modernist studio over a tasty brew and he enthusiastically showed me some pictures of one of his favourite cities Tokyo, again the same fairy lights providing a soft welcoming glow but 50 times the scale of Hastings Street. ‘Shopping districts are for pedestrians and people not diesel buses!” he claimed forcefully. “Retailers pay huge rates and are getting short changed because councils are not providing customer friendly streetscapes…” He raved about the need for friendly lighting (as opposed to the new lighting on Courtenay Place), seating and meeting places. Shopping is our number one leisure activity therefore councils and building owners must help retailers compete with malls and online retailing by providing a pleasurable experience intertwined with eating and meeting friends.  IMG_1947

The conversation flowed towards the contribution required of the retailers. I also had a photo of a trendy eatery and bar from Hastings Street called Miss Moneypennys. The name went over my daughters head but it reminded me of the beautiful and playful character in Sean Connery era James Bond films. Obviously beIMG_1951cause of the climate, diners spilled out over a wide pavement and so the business was part of the street in a way.

Back to the point though, I realised canny retailers recognise they must create a memorable and fun experience and even a sense of theatre. Shopping is the number one leisure activity, you want people to be entertained and come back for more!

I walked home on a cold winters night along Willis Street, there were plenty of people around and the stretch between the BNZ and Mercer St has a long line of fashion boutiques, all had expensive fitouts and beautiful stock to sell but at 6:15pm on a friday evening half were shut! Attractive shopping strips require creativity and good design, building owners and council must contribute their part and the retailers have to pull together with nice stores, update their offers and stay open when shoppers are at leisure! Allistar was right, the whole chain is only as strong as the weakest link.

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