City struggling to lure spenders

Last updated 12:00 05/07/2014

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Nelson City retailers are keen to see more activities to attract visitors and shoppers.

The past week has seen a boost to the central business district with the start of free time-limited parking, but disappointment with the closure of three businesses for varying reasons.

Everyman Records closed its Hardy St shop after going into voluntary liquidation, the Millers Acre Cafe and Creperie shut its doors after a rent rise, and tonight Bar Berlin in Church St finishes up after five years.

Liquidator Geoff Falloon noted many Nelson retailers were struggling and suggested a performance venue would help to attract more visitors in winter.

Unique Nelson manager Cathy Madigan supported the call for a performance venue and acknowledged that Nelson Tasman Tourism had been working hard to build visitor numbers.

The closure of the Trafalgar Centre, which hosted events, had not helped, and having the Nelson Arts Expo at Saxton Stadium instead was not ideal, she said.

"People used to make a day of it, and come into town for lunch and shop. All those things are having a trickle-down effect."

Some progress had been made in attracting visitors, through conferences at the Rutherford Hotel's expanded facilities, she said.

The hotel's conference facilities can cater for 500 to 700 and general manager Bevan McGillicuddy said they noticed the downstream effects with guests arriving back at the hotel with shopping from in town, and retailers commenting when they noticed a pickup from functions.

Another positive factor was in employment with the conferences helping to maintain a good level of staff, consistency and job security, he said.

Madigan said the three business closures had surprised her, and noted that for some retailers rents were an issue.

"If rent is unsustainable for your business you need to look for other premises," she said.

Summit Real Estate commercial salesperson Bevan Dixon said Nelson City retail rents were stable, and had not gone up for several years.

Rents were not as high as city rents such as Wellington. A Trafalgar St store of about 140sqm would pay rent of $40,000 to $50,000 a year plus GST plus operating expenses, he said.

Not long ago, Trafalgar St premises were snapped up before they became available, he said.

Now some retailers were moving from Trafalgar St. Miller's had moved to Montgomery Square where its rent was lower and it was trading well, he said.

The bulk of Trafalgar St landlords were Nelson-based and knew the retailers' situation.

He expects a levelling of rents as landlords negotiate with prospective new tenants.

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Nelson Tasman Tourism chief executive Lynda Keene said Nelson had one of the lowest drops in visitors in the winter season but assured her team was doing everything it could to attract visitors.

Visitor numbers were up 4.2 per cent for the year compared to last year, and she expected July figures to be good as visitors arrived for next weekend's cluster of events - the Art Expo, Light Nelson and Winter Music Festival.

- The Nelson Mail

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