New Plymouth's online shopping habits are hurting retailers but it's good news for couriers who are delivering more parcels.
Wayne Arthur, who owns Beach St Surf Shop in Fitzroy said physical retail shops were becoming fitting rooms for online shoppers.
"We have people coming in, trying on boots to get the right size then buying them online."
And he warned: "It's going to be very hard to look at Devon St in 15 years' time, whether it's just a whole lot of eateries open in the evenings - is that what we want?"
The branch manager at New Zealand Couriers in New Plymouth, Les Eiffes, said deliveries had increased over the last 18 months due to online shopping.
As a result, Mr Eiffes said the branch now had a staff member dedicated to residential deliveries.
Taranaki Chamber of Commerce general manager Judith Gilmer said the retail environment was changing and retailers needed to adapt.
"Change is continual and happening but at a much faster rate than ever before in our history.
"If a retailer does not have an online strategy right now they need to move fast, there are New Plymouth retailers who are actively selling product overseas via their websites."
She said a key requirement was the ability to innovate: "An example being retailers enabling direct-from-supplier ordering in store so people have local connection but at a lower price."
The chamber encouraged retailers to drive change and diversity in their businesses but to never lose the focus of the great customer experience.
Mr Arthur said his store's efforts to specialise and create a niche for themselves ended up minimising their customer base.
Customer service meant a lot, but at the end of the day everybody wanted to save a dollar, he said.
"It's about building loyalty and expertise and hopefully people get stung enough times online to return to the local retailer.
The owner of French Photographics Roger French said sales of cameras had dropped over the last year as a result of online shopping.
Mr French said he was lucky because he didn't have to rely on camera sales because his business was stronger in other areas like printing, canvas sales and passport photos.
Frontrunner's Craig Paterson said his store was feeling the pressure from online shopping.
"Any retailer who says they don't is either naive or lying."
Mr Paterson said referrals from osteopaths and podiatrists boosted his customer numbers but the store still needed customer loyalty to survive.
A lot of people did not think long term about the effect their online buying habits had locally, he said.
"You've got to to think, ‘Where will my kids get jobs?' Without spending your money locally what's going to happen?"
The Government could help by putting a duty tax on goods coming in from overseas, he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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