Fri, Jan 26, 2024 11:00 AM

CBDs have a ‘unique flavour’ and sometimes the flavour changes


Maia Hart

Town centre’s up and down the country are constantly changing, not just Blenheim’s, says a local business leader.

The Blenheim Business Association conducts a CBD survey each year that asks businesses for feedback on the likes of appeal and general feelings, events and business health.

A summary of the survey, which was released last month but conducted in August, said 19% of respondents felt town was quiet and foot traffic was down.

Although, some attributed this to the time of year and the economic environment.

But others attributed it to the ongoing development of the Westwood Business Park.

Lynette Rayner, the association’s chairperson, said while the CBD was constantly changing, this had always been the case, and there had been “consistent occupancy” in Blenheim over the years.

“There has been a shift in who occupies the CBD but that is standard New Zealand-wide, Blenheim is not unique in that,” Rayner said.

“The annual BBA survey conducted in August showed some relative trend changes but overall the survey results are consistent with previous years.”

Shoppers on Market St, in Blenheim’s CBD. SUPPLIED: ANTHONY PHELPS/STUFF

She said town centres had their own “unique flavour” and the way people shopped was always changing.

“CBD businesses adjust to those changes – again nothing unique with that, it’s not Blenheim centric.

“Our CBD community are locals, their kids go to school here, they shop here, they support local charities and events, and generally contribute to the wider community.

“It’s a good thing that locals support locals and we encourage the community to continue to support our town centre.”

The survey summary said 13% of respondents expressed fears caused by the Westwood Business Park, and 10% mentioned the negative effects of inflation and rising costs on the business community.

“They feel that customers are being drawn out of town and that the CBD is becoming a ‘dead-zone’,” the summary said.

One big retailer, Harvey Norman, has neared its move to Westwood Business Park, joining several others including Pak ’n Save, Bunnings Warehouse, Kmart and Chemist Warehouse.

Harvey Norman had been at its Maxwell Rd site in the CBD since it was bought and converted in 2004, but in late 2022 a resource consent was issued by the Marlborough District Council for a new $10m development at Westwood.

And, the Marlborough District Council last week confirmed it was searching for a new tenant for the Noel Leeming building in Blenheim.

A spokesperson for the council said the lease on the property on the corner of Charles and Queen streets in central Blenheim expired in October this year and Noel Leeming had not indicated a desire to extend the lease.

Meanwhile, Glassons, a popular chain with more than 130 stores in New Zealand and Australia, closed its Blenheim CBD store in October.
But Platypus Shoes and Sketchers moved into the CBD in 2023, and Pascoes moved to a newer Market St store. Cotton On returned to Blenheim in 2022, after it shut during Covid.

Glassons, on Market St, closed in October. SUPPLIED: ANTHONY PHELPS/STUFF

The BBA survey found 50% of businesses regarded the central location as the most valuable reason to be located in the CBD. And 30% said the number one reason was access to people and the community.

There was also “overwhelming support” from businesses to hold events in the CBD.
Around 20% of businesses felt parking should be more affordable and the free parking hour should be extended.

Some related this back to fears of the Westwood Business Park and other areas of Blenheim where parking was always free, the summary said.

Rayner said the association, which represented and advocated for the CBD community, was continually delivering enhancements to the town centre, like their pop-up park and the Marlborough Mile project.

“These activations together with supporting and promoting events heighten awareness and help encourage people into the CBD.

“[They] collectively keep our town centre interesting and connects the CBD to the wider community.”

The Marlborough District Council also undertook a biannual CBD Health Check, with the results expected in February, Rayner said.

“This offers significant historic comparative data on the health of the CBD.”

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ on Air.

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