Newmarket targets vibrant bricks-and-mortar experience – plus burgeoning online channels 

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Newmarket Business Association ceo Mark Knoff-Thomas tells M+AD how the smart shopping precinct survived the GFC, how innovative marketing is keeping it in prime position, and its future in a digital shopping age.

Tell us about the Newmarket Business Association and what it is that you do?

We are guardians of the Newmarket Inc brand and are solely funded by Newmarket businesses. We are tasked with helping promote the Newmarket precinct from an economic development perspective. We have almost 1300 business members, well over 450 retailers, over 120 hospitality outlets and a large chunk of commercial and corporate businesses.

We also lobby on behalf of Newmarket at local government level.

What is one example of a campaign you’ve seen recently, from one of the retailers within your precinct, which has worked really well?

As part of our Christmas run up we ran an Under Cover Santa campaign in partnership with ANZ Newmarket and a multitude of Newmarket retailers. We had a range of well-known Kiwis on board to help us give away tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of vouchers and gifts. It was a first for us and we saw significant sustained spikes in our social media reach plus a 3% lift on sales compared to the previous year’s campaign,

Tell us about some of the big global brands that have chosen to set up shop in within the Newmarket Business Association precinct. What was their motivation for doing so?

As a major metropolitan centre Newmarket has a strong stable of diverse international retailers from Hugo Boss to Kartell and Laura Ashley to Nespresso, and many other iconic brands. We also have some Australasian heavyweights like Country Road, Witchery and Oroton. Very soon French Connection (FCUK) and Seed Heritage will be joining us.

One of the primary drawcards is our Newmarket consumer demographic and high foot traffic, coupled with our well-developed infrastructure (trains, buses, motorway access and 13 car parks). Generally we find retailers with multiple sites across Auckland trade very favourably in Newmarket. The NBA is funding the roll out of a network of pedestrian count cameras that will further bolster our foot traffic data to help retailers decide where to set up shop.

The Newmarket Business Association itself has recently launched a brand campaign with Colin Mathura-Jeffree. What was the motivation behind that?

We thought long and hard about whom best to ask to help us launch our Newmarket – The Auckland Style of Living campaign. Colin was a very obvious choice. He is an international model, is also very Auckland and he has, personally, always shopped, dined, lunched and coffeed in Newmarket! He has an extensive social media following that speaks directly to our target demographic.

What is the most important trend currently playing out in the New Zealand retail landscape, and how have you seen that come to life within the NBA precinct?

Omni-channel retailing is not just a geeky phrase that academics talk about – it is a real living thing and it’s here.

It’s how we are all shopping whether we know it or not! We have some great innovation taking place in Newmarket. One example is Kathryn Wilson shoes – they provide an excellent real time and online in-store experience. Kathryn has made it “not naughty” to be online looking at stock while in store.

We are also very fortunate that we have Newmarket-based Vend, who provide online POS software solutions. Vend is at the very forefront of global technology and trends in this space.

Where do you think the retail industry is headed over the next decade? What will that mean for your members?

I think more and more retailers will get to grips with omni-chanelling and work out how best to maintain a vibrant bricks and mortar experience, as well as tapping into the rapidly growing online channels available.

I think, in general, New Zealand retail has been a slow adopter of online when compared to offshore markets.

Ultimately online will grow exponentially, but, in my opinion, there will always be a place for the emotional pleasure of physically shopping and that visual and tactile connection when making purchases.

To add to the mix are the developments in Auckland’s infrastructure at local government level. Auckland is undergoing a massive transformational change in terms of consumer behaviours – in effect we are transitioning through our teenage growing pains, and are taking our seat at the grownups table as a proper city.

Historically we have always been able to pull up outside our store/s of choice, nip in, and make some purchases and leave. I see the delivery mechanism of retail goods as a gaping opportunity for someone in the market.

Imagine taking the bus or train to Newmarket to go to XYZ homeware store, you purchase some amazing pots and pans, you pay and you leave. By the time you get home the goods are on your doorstep – no need to wait, and no need to lug the things home yourself. This model exists in the US, but is not really here yet. Any takers?

What do the next five years look like for the Newmarket Business Association?

The NBA will continue to work hard to maintain our relevance and increase Newmarket’s visibility in what is becoming a fiercely competitive retail market.

Newmarket took a few knocks through the GFC. Retail vacancy rates rose, sales dropped. However in the past 12 months things have levelled off and we are seeing vacancy rates drop and sales rise again, confidence has returned and more and more local brands are expanding and looking at their options.

Newmarket’s outlook is a positive one and we have some major retail developments in the pipeline over the next 12-18 months. With our brand position of Newmarket – The Auckland Style of Living, we are promoting Newmarket as a place to shop, eat, drink, live, work and commute.

We’re earmarked for significant growth and intensification in the Auckland Council’s Long Term Plan. The NBA will work hard to ensure we’re positioned well for that growth from a commercial and retail perspective.

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