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Gore District Council is on a mission to develop New Zealand's most commercially resilient provincial town. The Love Gore Shop Local campaign is a key part of this, however the wider project involves an integrated strategy that encompasses a wide range of capability building, stakeholder engagement and commercial growth initiatives, developed by First Retail Group
34 l www.localgovernmentmag.co.nz APRIL 2016 LOCAL GOVERNMENT MAGAZINE l 35
REGIONAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Resilient town centres anchor economic growth. Kim Munro explains
how Gore has brought shoppers back to its stores.
Town centre guardianship is a hot
topic for local government around
the world as the digital revolution
continues to impact traditional retail
formats and the relevance of inner city
Spending attrition, changing consumer
lifestyles and commercial confidence have
all contributed to the challenges high
streets and CBDs are increasingly facing.
These have been characterised by
struggling retailers, increased shop
vacancy and a resistance to invest by
In Southland, the Gore District Council
was determined this would not be the fate
of its CBD and set a goal for Gore to
become New Zealand’s most
commercially-resilient provincial town.
A core part of the strategy has been
focusing on strengthening the CBD
economy through a range of collaborative
initiatives in partnership with retailers
and landlords – key stakeholders in their
Gore’s journey began through a set of
circumstances similar to those of many
small New Zealand towns.
A value-focused retail chain closed its
local store following the wider group’s
receivership, forcing customers to shop in
neighbouring towns or online.
Conversations in the community
quickly reached the front page of local
newspapers, where it was revealed the
growth in online shopping could
compromise some of Gore’s most
Gore District mayor Tracy Hicks and
the council’s senior management team
were quick to recognise the growing risk
of revenue escaping the district – along
Independent delivery is vital. Engaging
independent sector expertise to
develop and deliver the project was
key in giving pace to the project. This
enabled stakeholders to focus on the
big picture without becoming distracted
by personalities or legacy issues that
typically impact collaborative ventures.
An agile strategy drives pace. The
retail sector is highly dynamic as
changing consumer purchasing behaviour
continually drives new challenges. Using
an agile approach ensures a programme
can be deployed rapidly and adapted as
opportunities or risks are identified.
Validators stimulate participation.
Gore’s business leaders endorsed the
programme, which helped achieve
awareness and support across the
Media messaging engages. Open and
frank news media conversations can
contribute to positive editorial coverage,
driving both commercial and consumer
awareness. Ongoing development of a
project ensures continual story content
and enduring media interest.
with its wider economic and social
impact. The search was on for best-
practice solutions that could best lend
themselves to Gore’s marketplace.
The council engaged with strategists
First Retail Group, a company that works
with forward-looking councils across
Australasia and the UK.
Already familiar with the Otago /
Southland economy through work in
Dunedin, Invercargill and the Southern
Lakes, First Retail recognised unique
drivers influencing the marketplace.
Led by managing director Chris
Wilkinson and project manager Lorraine
Nicholson, the company undertook
extensive consultation with stakeholders,
consumers and council managers.
Findings indicated what many had
suspected – the town centre was beginning
to fall out of favour with shoppers while
business owners were unsure how best to
Those first visits and conversations
were followed by a high-level report
identifying the issues, proposed solutions
and a projected delivery schedule. Gore’s
recovery and growth initiative would be
based on what the company terms ‘agile’
strategy that would be implemented
According to Chris Wilkinson, councils
often spend so long talking and planning
that opportunities are lost without the
chance to effectively leverage them.
Using agile methodology, high-level
strategy and mapped goals formed a
framework that allowed for changes or
inclusions where these could benefit
stakeholders. This enabled the council to
navigate risk, harness potential and adapt
rapidly as the market continued to evolve.
An intensive period of performance
development, range realignment and
culture change followed, overhauling
many of the legacy practices that had
challenged consumers. The process was
intensive and, for many, cathartic as
business owners reassessed their focus
Love Gore, Shop Local was a strategy
actively encouraging consumers to
prioritise spending to support local
businesses. The initiative, and its back-
story, achieved national press and quickly
won the hearts of local residents.
The programme’s ultimate test came
during December last year, when retailers
re-welcomed consumers with their new
offer. Across town many retailers enjoyed
bumper trading up to and after Christmas,
reinforcing value in the project and
inspiring continuing evolution of the
Mayor Tracy Hicks say the success of
the Love Gore, Shop Local campaign has
surprised him, mainly because of the
willingness of retailers to work so closely
“Traditionally retailers are
individualistic in the way they approach
marketing. However, through GoRetail
they have recognised marketing is as
much about the whole place as it is about
individual businesses.” LG
• Kim Munro is a Wellington-based