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City of Melbourne defends retail assistance efforts

Wednesday, 12 October 2011 | By Michelle Hammond
The City of Melbourne council has defended its record of supporting retailers, despite ongoing fears of CBD small businesses being overlooked by consumers in favour of large suburban shopping centres.


A new marketing group, The Melbourne District Central Network was launched last week by Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle and Kristina Karlsson, founder of stationery line kikki.K.


MDCN president Greg Robinson says city-based businesses are being challenged by the growth of “out of town super-sized shopping centres” in addition to the current retail climate.


“We aim to bring the focus firmly back on the CBD... by showcasing the many things that Melbourne has to offer,” Robinson says.


The network will act as a hub, providing businesses with mentoring and education, information and networking opportunities as well as supporting and promoting city council initiatives.


According to a council spokesperson, the City of Melbourne is overseeing a range of large-scale projects to improve the walkability of the city, namely around Swanston Street.


“The Swanston Street Redevelopment Project will increase the flow of pedestrian traffic to the central part of the city. This project will make it more attractive for public transport users and businesses,” the spokesperson says.


“The City of Melbourne launched the Great Melbourne Treasure Hunt in February this year to attract shoppers to the CBD during what is a traditionally quieter time.”


“It also ran the Look.Stop.Shop. initiative for the second time, during the State of Design festival, to celebrate the in-store retail experience.”


The spokesperson says it is the availability of space – rather than the cost of space – that stops small businesses from operating in the city.


“There may be businesses that collaborate on a specific project that may only require space for a specified period of time and then disband,” she says.


“Spaces like these are cropping up in the city and the council has supported some in the past.”


StartupSmart has outlined some of the initiatives of other city councils to boost CBD retailers:


City of Sydney

Small Bars is designed to reactivate certain parts of the city, and provide an improved mix of venues, via a laneway capital works program, precinct planning and the creation of tenancies.


Smart Green Business helps SMEs save money and improve their environmental performance, while CitySwitch Green Office helps office building tenants improve their energy use.


Business crime prevention forums are designed to help business owners minimise crime in and around their workplace, including shoplifting, fraud, robbery, assault and credit card crime.


Brisbane City Council

In the aftermath of the floods, transport became a major issue in the city, so the council has focused on improving its services.


Brisbane’s CityCat and ferry network is now fully restored, with all terminals operating seven days a week, including a new CityCat launched at the West End terminal earlier this month.


The entire CityCat fleet is fitted with WiFi, enabling businesspeople to stay connected and serving as an added incentive to visit the city.


Meanwhile, Brisbane Marketing works closely with the council to manage the marketing and activation of the Queen Street Mall – and increasingly the surrounding central business district – as the state’s premier retail destination.


City of Perth

The council works closely with city retailers on issues such as preferred Sunday shopping hours (still a contentious issue in WA), deregulation and exemptions to trade on public holidays.


The Raising Retail Series is a new initiative that will present city businesses with marketing updates, business development tips and network opportunities on a quarterly basis.

Spacemarket is an online interface for the exchange of floor space across central Perth. It seeks to stimulate under-utilised spaces by pairing non-tenanted spaces with people who have a desire to use them.


The council’s Laneway Strategy aims to improve the contribution of laneways to the city in order to enhance each space and celebrate each laneway’s distinctive environment.


Adelaide City Council

A key component of the council’s Strategic Directions is a significant increase in its investment in capital works, with major upgrades planned for city streets, squares and public places.


The council is also working with the state government on a new extension to the tram network, while improved pedestrian access is another major focus.


The council has also launched the Main Street Building Improvement Scheme, which provides financial incentives to support commercial property owners interested in restoring old buildings.