The move of Tokoroa's medical facilities to a one-stop shop outside the CBD is being blamed for a drop in business and prompted calls for the council to get more involved in reviving the area.
Four medical practices and one pharmacy, previously located in the centre of town, moved to renovated facilities at the hospital between December 2013 and March 2014, taking much-needed retail customers with them.
Primary Health Care business manager Mark Taylor said that, from a health perspective, the move had been amazing.
Last year, the three medical centres owned by Primary Health Care reached around 50 per cent of Midlands' quality targets. This year they are on track to reach about 90 per cent.
He said they had received no negative comments about the relocation - but the move has certainly been felt by retailers.
The shift caused a 20 per cent drop in foot traffic and sales at Sweet Rose Cafe and Espresso, said owner Lorraine Young.
"It's very quiet, not just on Bridge St," she said. "If you look at that rear carpark it's never full now. A lot of it was impulse [buying]. They had 20 minutes to spare so they would pop across and maybe buy a book then come in for a cup of coffee. It's small stuff but I think it still brought people into town."
Things were starting to "stabilise".
"We would be down about 15 per cent now."
The flexible business owner said "what happened had to happen".
"There's nothing you can do about it and I don't want the hospital to close so we've just got to adapt I suppose."
Atlantic Books owner operator Greg Price said he was "not happy."
"There seems to be no planning past ‘let's move everything to the hospital'."
Price said sales had dropped by about 20 per cent.
"I suppose the big disappointment in a town with a lot of empty shops is that the council seemed to encourage them to move out and create more empty shops and there's no plan for what to do next."
He said many of the properties for lease were asking exorbitant prices.
"What business setting up in Tokoroa in this economic climate is going to be able to afford those rents?"
He said the council needed to see the CBD as an asset as much as it would roading and the rubbish collection.
"It's no point leaving it up to individual property owners. It's well known a lot of properties belong to out-of-towners who just use the empty buildings as tax write-offs."
Mannering and Roseberry street businesses have been affected too.
Bay Betta Electrical Tokoroa manager Dawn Grant said it had been sad to lose customers.
"The oldies we don't get any more . . . They'd get a taxi into town and do all their stuff, they'd pop in and say hello and usually buy something."
Lois' Boutique owner Lois Potaka said the foot traffic had dropped right back. "It has been a bit of an eye-opener for me . . . We do still have some really busy days but it doesn't make up for the days there's nothing."
She said it was hard to tell when business would pick back up.
"Who can tell you what's going to happen next week? We just think ‘there's another day tomorrow', so we just carry on with smiles on our faces."
- South Waikato News
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