A week-long ‘city shopping festival’ and retail ambassadors to help tourists discover Melbourne’s shopping secrets are just two of the key recommendations in a landmark retail strategy launched recently.

The Melbourne Retail Strategy 2006-2012 – a joint initiative of the State Government and the City of Melbourne – provides, for the first time, an integrated approach to making Melbourne an international retail destination.

The Minister for Small Business, André Haermeyer, and the Melbourne Lord Mayor John So unveiled the strategy, which was developed in consultation with the Melbourne Retail Advisory Board, run by the City of Melbourne, and the city’s leading retailers will now work with the State Government and the City of Melbourne to oversee its roll-out.

Mr Haermeyer said the strategy envisaged that by 2012, Melbourne would be renowned globally as Australia’s leading retail city, unrivalled in its diversity and shopping experiences.

“The city’s annual retail turnover is around $2.38 billion and the Bracks Government is committed to ensuring this important sector continues to grow,” he said.

"Melbourne is hosting ever more major events, the local cultural scene is attracting international interest and the Victorian economy is performing strongly.

“Everything is working in the retail sector’s favour. This strategy ensures that the retail sector continues to evolve and grow and make the most of Melbourne’s natural advantages as an international city.”

The Lord Mayor, John So, said the retail sector had experienced outstanding performance in recent years, and new developments such as QV, Galleria, Melbourne Central, Waterfront City and the GPO strengthened the city’s appeal as a shopping mecca.

“Melbourne has so much to offer as a shopping destination. Almost three kilometres of laneways have been redeveloped since 1994, housing some of the most exciting and innovative retailers in the country,” Mr So said.
“The city’s ambience is more appealing, inviting and exciting than ever, with seats in kerbside cafes rising 177 percent since 1994, and the number of bars almost quadrupling from 95 to 356.

"Council will commit to $20 million over three years from our Marketing and Business Budget to catapult Melbourne into international retail destination status. We have already established a dedicated Retail Development Unit – the only local government in Australia to place such emphasis on the retail sector."

The strategy has won broad support from Melbourne’s retailers, who say it will enhance the city’s reputation as a world class city and foster continued growth and job creation.

The president of the Australian Retailers Association of Victoria, Joe Briffa, said the strategy was, importantly, a ‘living document’ that could be fine-tuned to make the most of emerging trends, issues and opportunities over time.  “The aims and objectives are commendable in their focus on a wide range of essential retail imperatives,” he said.

David Jones’ CEO Mark McInnes said his company had spent more than $30 million upgrading and updating its Bourke Street store to be part of this exciting new world-class retail shopping precinct.

“We fully support and endorse the coming together of the State Government and the Melbourne City Council to create this unique opportunity in Australia which David Jones is happy to be fully involved in and invest in,” he said.

Key initiatives of the strategy include:

• Identifying and developing affordable second and third floor retail spaces throughout the city for new and innovative retailers;

• Creating a nationally recognised Melbourne Shopping Festival by 2009, aimed at attracting interstate and international visitors;

• Selecting ‘retail ambassadors’ to help visitors find the great shops only locals know about. Ten ambassadors are expected to be based in the Bourke Street Mall’s information centre within a year;

• Implementing a new retail marketing campaign positioning Melbourne as the ultimate shopping experience;
• Improving the retail mix in Bourke Street between Swanston and Spring Streets;

• Introducing a city-specific retail business monitor to regularly benchmark the health of the CBD’s retail economy;

• Establishing a quiet hub for city shoppers with baby change facilities, rest spots and parcel minding services;

• Identifying new city laneways for retail development; and

• Developing special discounts and offers for shoppers using public transport to encourage weekend shopping.
The Lord Mayor said the strategy found consumers increasingly wanted a ‘total experience’ from retail.

“Shopping is now part of the overall city experience embracing multiculturalism, design, arts, bars, events and restaurants,” he said.

“Innovative retailers overseas are increasingly allocating floor space to cultural pursuits, whether they are great restaurant and dining options such as London’s Selfridges, or spaces for artistic exhibitions such as Paris’ Bon Marche. We need to highlight Melbourne’s diverse experiences and unique precincts.”

The Melbourne Retail Advisory Board includes representatives from Myer, David Jones, Melbourne Central, QV Property Management, Australian Retailers Association Victoria, Metlink, Crown Casino, NH Architecture, Grocon and the Department of Innovation, Industry and Regional Development.