Thursday, February 8, 2024

Meters Matter


What makes a successful strip shopping precinct? This question came up recently during discussions I was having with my local retailers association. Strip shops are those on a street, as opposed to being in a big shopping centre. The British refer to it as High Street.

There are many factors that make strip shop precincts successful such as good anchor tenants, interesting mix of retailers, demographics. Transition also plays a major role and meters matter in the world of retail. If you think of a strip precinct like a body, the strongest populated street is the spine, the attached streets would be the ribs. However if there are gaps from the spine the body loses its strength. Successfully transitioning customers means that the flow must be imperceptible. 

I’ve seen this formula in action in my own suburb. I live in an older suburb. Times have changed and competition increased. In my childhood you could get everything you wanted without leaving the suburb. The shops all opened for late night trading on a Thursday and Saturday mornings were super busy. Today, some retailers are stalwarts from my childhood, others new kids on the block with very innovative ideas. There’s also the usual turn-over and empty tenancies which are mirrored in all suburban areas like this.

Map of my local area showing wide spread of shops.

One of the negative issues impacting my local shopping precinct is the spread over multiple streets. Transition can be difficult to successfully achieve within retail. It's difficult even within a store, especially if it's a multi level store. A few years ago Woolworths supermarket built a brand new building in my local area and relocated the library to above Woolworths. This previously empty non-destination zone created a whole new traffic flow within the area, which affected other traders.

Byron Bay is similar to my local area, in that it's also spread out and has good and bad pockets as a result. However it has large tourist influxes which boost the numbers.  

Map shows single street transition.

A suburb near to me shows the difference that strip shop layout makes if the majority of stores are on the one street. This street (shown above) has a movie cinema as it’s long term anchor tenant. There is also a popular pub that would be considered an anchor as well as some very reputable one off retailers. Here people can browse at the shops when they go to the movies. They have multiple choices for food all along the one street. Half way along the street a large park with sporting fields and a playground breaks the flow. This is where the transition starts. Across the road from the park is the local supermarket, which always does well, but is a destination in itself and doesn’t attract the same kind of foot traffic. After the park the customer flow changes. The end retailers are visited by car and don’t have the same exposure as near the cinema. This is why “meters matter” in retail.

Another strong retail strip street is Hastings St in Noosa. It’s a very easy street to walk a lap around the shops.

Map of Hastings St, Noosa.

There’s no sure answer to creating a successful precinct, however as a potential retailer, looking at the layout of the area can help with a more informed decision for future growth.

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