We have certainly had our fair share of new businesses opening in Browns Bay over the past year. They have been mainly eateries and services businesses such as beauty and hair salons. People ask “why is this?” and “why isn’t there a larger retail presence?”

Great questions that would take several pages to answer as the answer is multipronged, and reflects what is happening in many high street precincts all around the country, and the world. Here’s a short, simplistic response through the eyes of Browns Bay’s small independent business owners.

A significant portion of retail sales take place online, which continues to grow at a faster pace than bricks and mortar retail. A trend which experienced a worldwide surge as a result of the pandemic. Kiwis are purchasing goods from domestic and international retailers, although there is a swing towards buying domestic, environmentally friendly and sustainable. But lockdown also showed us that people enjoy socialising and engaging with potential purchases in physical spaces, and this is unlikely to change. Tis is where high street shops come into their own.

Consider that your local high street has always been about more than just shopping, and that it must also differentiate itself from malls and city centres. Localisation and convenience are major factors, as is the ‘instore experience’, which cannot be achieved online. Browns Bay businesses understand the value of the benefits and thrills of in-person shopping. They are focused on delivering not only excellent goods and services, but ‘experiences’ that only in-store and personalised engagement can achieve at a destination precinct such as Browns Bay.

Competition is fierce, especially in the hospitality sector, and small independent businesses must differentiate and deliver a high standard in order to thrive, survive and adapt to the needs and wants of the local population. That’s very positive for you as the consumer, and why our town centre continues to evolve as it does.

Published in ShoreLines magazine, April/May 2024, p.18.