RETAILERS at Stockland Shellharbour have reported large increases in trade over the Christmas/New Year’s period.
However, residents have also been urged to support the city’s smaller shopping strips, after some experienced a ‘‘pretty dismal’’ Christmas period.
One of the new shops to open since the $300 million Stockland centre redevelopment is women’s clothing retailer Osop, which kicked off last September.
Lucy Fischer, who has managed other shops at Shellharbour centre, said their first Christmas had been excellent.
She also said trade in previous years had died off more quickly post-Christmas.
“A lot of first-timers [retailers] were stunned by the trade they had in here,’’ she said.
Ms Fischer said there wasn’t enough emphasis on customer service in the current retail climate.
“It’s not just making the sale and treating people like a number, it’s putting people in the right roles,’’ she said.
‘‘You’ll get repeat customers as they enjoy the shopping experience.
“Stockland have put so much effort into making this a go-to destination … It would be hard to compete with this centre.”
The Wild Cards and Gifts franchise relocated to the new area of the centre last May.
Franchise owner Rod Smith said festive period trade had been up annually during the past six years at Shellharbour, but this season had featured an ‘‘astronomical’’ increase.
He cited the centre’s presentation, parking, mix of shops and the shop’s location as reasons for the increase.
The busy hive of activity at Stockland aside, Shellharbour Village Business Chamber treasurer/executive member Angela Cramp urged shoppers to support smaller, local strips filled with niche stores.
“If people don’t support a bit of everything, there will not be a choice,” Mrs Cramp said.
“There are some fabulous, dynamic businesses in Shellharbour Village you can’t find anywhere else.’’
She said retaining an alternative to major centres was a necessity in the long-term.
“It’s quite obvious retail is not dying,” Mrs Cramp said.
“Once the novelty of a brand new big centre [wears off], people will go back to spending how they used to spend, so we need to have a diverse range of retail experiences, not just Stockland.
“I’m delighted Stockland has put some money into this area; it’s good there’s still money in retail.
“The niche shops can’t wait up to two years while everyone gets bored of Stockland.”
She said most village retailers had experienced ‘‘a pretty dismal Christmas” compared to the usual spending.
“We are concerned as a shopping precinct; looking at what the future holds for us,” she said.
Illawarra Business Chamber chief executive Mike Leask said Wollongong Central being unable to open on Boxing Day was unfortunate, but likely benefited Shellharbour retailers.
He said although smaller strips may suffer during sales periods of large retailers, it was a chance to expose their uniqueness and boutique qualities to attract customers.
He also suggested that smaller shopping strips and businesses needed to use avenues such as social media to target appropriate markets, promote their uniqueness and attract destination shoppers.
“Shopping centres are the mass markets and strips become the boutique markets,” he said.
“Smaller retailers need to promote themselves in a way that the big retailers looking for a mass market aren’t doing.
“Service is the best thing; a shop in a small strip has the ability to give great service and knowledge.”