Hastings retail demand stalls

Hastings CBDStores going out of business and others relocating to new premises outside the CBD, along with a general lack of interest in main street retailing has seen Hastings city retail occupancy continue to drop over the past year, according to property valuators, Logan Stone.

Retail occupancy in Hastings has declined to its lowest level since the survey began in the year 2000.

“We are expecting further store closures and relocations in the coming 12 months and this, combined with very limited demand for retail space, will lead to additional vacancies in the central retail core of Hastings,” said Louise Thompson, author of the six monthly Hawke’s Bay retail occupancy survey from Logan Stone.

While tenant retail occupancy levels in Napier, Havelock North, and Taradale are higher than six months ago, only Taradale is higher than a year ago. Hastings has seen a 3.6 per cent drop over the same period, and is 8.7 per cent lower than the same time in 2014.

“There has been a distinct lack of demand for retail space in Hastings and the outlook is grim unless a proactive and innovative approach is developed.

“Over the longer term, occupancy is decreasing in the traditional retail precincts of the region,” Thompson said, citing changing retail habits and the increasing supply of competitive premises away from the retail cores.

“Along with this, the current low population growth and increased competition from online activity suggests there is little reason for occupancy levels to increase in the near future.

“Retailers are attracted to places where people are present or can easily access so regeneration and increased activity needs to happen if the occupancy trend is to be reversed.”

While local business associations, regional development entities and councils appear to be working to resolve the decline of CBDs, this may not be enough, Thompson says.

“The global trends suggest that in low growth provincial centres, the structure of CBDs needs to change with a reduced space requirement for traditional retail business.

“Retail occupancy in our main centres will not improve until shoppers are attracted to the core retail precincts on a regular and repetitive basis.”

While Napier’s retail occupancy has fallen from February 2014, the trend appears to have been reversed over the past six months with a small increase in occupancy apparent in the latest survey.

Occupancy in both Havelock North and Taradale has increased over the survey period. Taradale and Havelock North continue to grow as precincts of convenience to the surrounding residential areas. Havelock North continues to attract boutique shoppers and expand its café culture, while also attracting more commercial tenants.

Consistent with international trends, boutique and convenience shopping are two key factors in attracting potential shoppers and the increase in occupancy in both Havelock North and Taradale was evidence of this, according to Thompson.

While Ahuriri is not part of the survey, it provides an alternative to central Napier for hospitality, art, boutique, and related traders as well as commercial offices, and Thompson believes it has the potential to provide a boutique precinct comparable to Havelock North.

Relocation of commercial activities to vicinities such as Havelock North and Ahuriri is a threat to the CBDs of both Napier and Hastings, she says.

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