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OTM chairman Johny O'Donnell introducing the business networking meeting [Photo: Melissa Gray]

Motueka shop opening hours a growing issue

November 4th, 2016
[by David Armstrong]

Motueka retailers need to look at extending and making changes to their opening hours to better serve customers at the times that the town is busiest.

This was one of several pertinent and heartfelt words of advice offered by Tasman Bay Herbs co-owner Don Grant at last night's business networking meeting held by Our Town Motueka.

He said businesses should work together and cooperate wherever possible to make Motueka a visitor destination between Labour Day and April.

Another suggestion was that some businesses should look at being open from 10 till 6 rather than 9 to 5, as a way of being there for more customers who are shopping at that time.

The networking meeting, held at the conference room of Top 10 Holiday Park, was attended by nearly 40 people. This represented another increase in attendance over the past three such meetings, hosted by the newly invigorated Our Town committee.

An entertaining speaker, Don Grant told of the growth, decline and then growth again of his business since 1996, when he converted a kiwifruit orchard in order to grow herbs in glass houses.

After initial success, the business plateaued and then started going backwards, he said, leading to a panic time and the need to make decisions about changes to the business.

With a new business partner, they instituted a Code of Conduct, insisted on writing job descriptions for all employees, and put in place extensive and progressive training and development programs for all staff.

They also instituted a no-blame culture and simple ways of progressively empowering staff. Now they are employing 17 staff and soon will be open seven days a week.

"So many business owners start getting successful, then get caught up with the three B's - a bach, a boat and a Beemer," he said. That is a recipe for eventual failure.

So with other businesses, many need to face challenges of going forward or backward.

As far as Motueka as a whole is concerned, all businesses will benefit from more cooperation between competitors in a variety of ways. These may include complementing each other on times of opening, and niche products within their common market.

"Businesses can complement each other while still differentiating from each other."

On the Facebook post put up by Our Town Motueka this morning, one of those attending, Lucy Hodgson, wrote the following which also reflects many of the points which Don had made:

"To move forward, our lovely little town of Motueka has to drop the old fashioned idea that we are all competing for limited resources. The only way we can use our resources most efficiently is to co-operate.

"What does competition look like? Trying to increase your market share by "stealing" business from a limited market, so you get:

  • Price undercutting - Nobody wins a price war. Health & safety is the first to suffer and everyone works harder for less money. Do we want Motueka to greet visitors like a flock of birds going "Cheap! Cheap! Cheap!"
  • Bad-mouthing fellow operators - a dangerous weapon that can shoot you in the foot when your audience hears "all operators are dodgy" instead of "that business is dodgy".

"What does co-operation look like? Working together to grow the market for everyone, so you get:

  • Various businesses sharing advertising spend and increase the impact of a promotion, eg Motueka Kai Fest
  • Business mentoring to ensure visitors have a good experience across the range of operators they encounter in our region eg. join your local Chamber of Commerce.
  • Sharing opening times, staff and equipment to use resources efficiently and cost-effectively.

"You are permitted to celebrate if your special promotion or new product works better than a fellow operator's offering, but celebrate with them if they come up with a successful campaign. I would love to see some workshops to help us work towards more co-operation."

The growth in tourism

The other speaker at last night's meeting was the ever popular Darryl Wilson, who gave insights into the changes taking place in the tourism industry, both for New Zealand and for the Nelson region.

With visitor numbers on a steep upward trajectory, places like Motueka need to be asking the questions "Why stop? Why stay? What's our story?".

He said his extensive experiences in China this year has impressed on him that Chinese visitors are good cultural fit, with their values around family and hard work.

Visitor oriented businesses need to cater more for Asian tourists and help them understand our methods and protocols, such as how motels operate.

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