Upper Hutt bucks the trend
Monday, 01 February 2016
While retail precincts around the Wellington region lament stagnating retail occupancy rates, Upper Hutt is bucking the trend as the only area outside of Wellington’s city centre to see a steady increase.
Residents of Upper Hutt and visitors to the area enjoyed an expanding retail offering this festive season with new stores in the city centre, with many retailers noting increase in foot traffic over the period. These incoming retailers have taken advantage what Upper Hutt offers, with lower commercial rates than other areas throughout Wellington and incentives from the Upper Hutt City Council making relocations and shop fit-outs more affordable. This increase in retail tenancies has dropped Upper Hutt’s vacancy rating to 12.1%, outperforming neighbouring Hutt City’s High Street (which sits at 30% vacant), and Porirua’s Canopy Connection (sitting at 24% vacant), as reported by real estate group Bayleys in their latest Bayleys Research Wellington Retail survey.
Council’s efforts to attract retail tenants have increased significantly in the last three years. Consistent feedback from ratepayers to address issues in the city centre have led to a multi-faceted approach encompassing retail attraction, business support and liaison, job creation, city centre promotions, infrastructure works, and improvements to the city’s aesthetics. Following intense consultative processes, a fund was established to support incoming business and established businesses wishing to expand.
Council’s economic development stimulus grants have supported some of these new or relocated businesses, complimenting the existing retail offering and providing a more diverse shopping experience. Physical works underway in the city centre - improving walking and transportation and creating areas of interest with artworks and other interactive features – further add to the creation of a destination shopping experience, a development aimed to attract shoppers from around the region.
“Our community was very clear in asking their Council to fill empty shops and tidy up our city centre,” says Upper Hutt City Mayor, Wayne Guppy. “These latest figures support what we are already seeing in our city centre – that we are becoming more vibrant and more diverse. Our residents are enjoying our city centre experience that much more and, by creating a real destination, visitors will also enjoy this experience.
“Diversifying our retail offering and improving the cityscape is one way we are competing with the increasing trend towards online shopping. Shoppers expect more, and we aim to deliver.”
Councils grants for earthquake strengthening and retail fit-outs are an attractive draw card for retailers, with many retail brands seemingly reluctant to commit to other Wellington retail precincts where properties are not meeting these requirements. This, combined with a decline in traditional retail and a move to online shopping, has resulted in the highest retail vacancy rates in the Wellington Region for six years.
“While we have gained traction in our city centre improvements we still have more to do,” says Mr Guppy. “We are committed to bringing in more business, continuing to help existing businesses prosper, supporting developments that will create opportunities for our residents and to creating a unique, modern, diverse, and dynamic city centre.”