Pop-up stores may be the way to encourage new retailers into Hamilton's CBD.
The Hamilton Central Business Association (HCBA) is considering a scheme that could put innovative retailers in a pop-up shop for six months with reduced or no rent.
And after testing the waters, they could negotiate a longer lease with their landlord.
General manager of HCBA Sandy Turner said the association came across a pop-up to permanent-style scheme which ran in Oakland, California when researching how other countries managed vacancies.
They thought a similar initiative, which let potential leaseholders test their ideas before signing a long-term lease, could work in Hamilton.
"We believe that there are some budding entrepreneurs out there that are perhaps running home-based businesses, or are in that process of looking towards taking a more permanent retail site but . . . when you sign a lease it's like signing a mortgage, and it can be quite daunting."
The scheme wouldn't be about replicating the same old retail stores, she said, but would be aimed at people with unique business concepts, such as artists and creative businesses.
It was an opportunity for landlords too - to support new retailers into longer leases.
Ms Turner said overall vacancy in the CBD was actually at an all-time low, but areas like Alexandra and Collingwood Streets had a high concentration, so the project would focus on those.
While the idea was in its initial stages, the association had already been approached by an interested property owner, and a local accountant offering free advice.
Good George co-owner Darrel Hadley, who had his own taste of a pop-up taking on a life of its own with Little George, thought the scheme had a good chance of success in Hamilton.
"Part of the beauty of the pop-up concept . . . is things don't have to be perfect with your fit-out and you don't have to spend a lot of money up front to get trading," he said.
Little George appeared in Hood Street in March as a filler, and was meant to stay around 10 weeks, but it's still going strong.
And commercial property experts were also enthusiastic about the prospects of a pop-up project.
Mark Brunton of Colliers International, Hamilton had not heard about the initiative, but said his firm would probably recommend it to building owners.
"Potentially there is a win-win in there," he said. "There will be good ideas out there and people are scared of signing leases, just because they can be onerous obligations."
The HCBA's ideal for the initiative would be three pop-up sites in place to make the most of the busy Christmas trading period, with six months rent-free.
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