Why our regional mainstreets aren’t a Westfield – and we don’t want them to be

Ali UrenBusiness Transformation, Tourism & HospitalityLeave a Comment

Norman Street Adelaide Kiikstart

Last month I joined local and international presenters, including Mainstreet America’s Matt Wagner, at the annual Mainstreet SA State Conference.

Today I want to share some key takeaways from two very thought-provoking days of discussion.

This is a useful read for those in the tourism or local government spaces, or anyone with a business on a mainstreet. Some of these points also apply more broadly to businesses, so read on as I share my key takeaways from this year’s event.

Give them quality and they will come
Despite the international move away from brick and mortar businesses, there are still plenty of opportunities on our mainstreets. However, generic products simply won’t cut it in 2018. Matt Wagner from Mainstreet America says 77 per cent of consumers are loyal to brands that give top quality experiences, while 50 per cent would pay more for experiences they value.

Do: Create niche, short-term offerings that focus on exclusive products or experiences to drive visitation.

Don’t: Compromise on quality. This will have a negative impact in the longer term.

Mix it up
A diverse but cohesive offering is key to success for any mainstreet. According to Matt, there does need to be influencers and hero businesses on any mainstreet to drive innovation. And while you need to mix it up with your offering, if the region is known for a particular theme, such as food and wine, it makes sense to also play to these strengths.

Do: Create a mix of innovative businesses and include hero businesses in the mix.

Don’t: Assume you need ‘big name’ retailers or chain stores. Boutique players can ooze quality and be just as powerful as drawcards, especially where your region has a particular niche.

Develop skills, not just infrastructure
While developing infrastructure is a fantastic way to draw people to mainstreets, their experience of the local businesses will determine whether they return. Service delivery is an opportunity to create a real point of difference from the likes of your local Westfield. Building real capacity from a business to business perspective is one potential key to success.

Do: Constantly work to develop your skills, and collaborate with other local businesses to improve service delivery.

Don’t: Invest in infrastructure alone. The quality of a customer’s experience is key to success or failure.

Business must drive change
There is much that can be done at a local government level to drive innovation on our mainstreets. Decision makers need to develop projects around mainstreets that engage and involve not only businesses, but local communities. At the same time, Matt says the evolution of mainstreets must also be driven by business. Having an organic plan that reviews and responds to markets, as well as measures in place to assess its success, is essential. Engaged consumers spend 60 per cent more with a business.

Do: Have plans and measures in place to engage consumers in a constantly evolving marketplace.

Don’t: Leave it to Local Government alone. Business must drive innovation to remain relevant and competitive.

Focus locally, think globally
At the conference I spoke about the need to think big and overcome a scarcity mindset. But this shouldn’t come at the expense of a local focus. Allow your region’s values to shine through in your product and service delivery. Matt advises you should ensure your offering is real and authentic, and isn’t simply a manufactured focus, as can be the case in larger mall environments.

Do: Focus on authentic, local product and service delivery.

Don’t: Think small. Renowned local products and services can be global contenders.

Thanks to my co-presenter Glen Christie from Port Pirie Council and everyone who came along to listen to us and the other Mainstreet SA presentations across the two days.

I look forward to seeing more of our mainstreets across the state grow, flourish, and continue to be authentic marketplaces showcasing the best of the local communities they serve.

Want support growing your mainstreet or business? Get in touch with me on 0428 593 400 or email enquiries@kiikstart.com to find out more about how we can work together.

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