Murwillumbah businesspeople are trying novel ways of enticing customers to shop locally in the face of a massive 32 vacant premises casting a pall of gloom over the town.
And local MP Thomas George has suggested that on the back of its highly successful gallery, Murwillumbah could rebrand itself the art centre of Australia.
One of the plans, backed by Tweed Shire Council and local politicians, includes encouraging artists and creative industries to use the empty stores as temporary ‘pop-up shops’.
A recent meeting of the Murwillumbah Chamber of Commerce drew more than 75 small business owners who expressed their enthusiasm for the chamber’s new strategy to revitalise the town’s central business district (CBD).
The shop-locally campaign, known as Community Slice, is a loyalty system where customers swap their email address for a loyalty card and receive monthly updates of the specials provided locally by the participating businesses.
The project, which already has 1,500 shoppers, encourages participants to stay in Murwillumbah to do their shopping.
Murwillumbah IGA’s Brett Bugg gave chamber members some interesting statistics from a buying survey, saying that the thing that most encouraged people to buy was the price.
‘Murwillumbah businesses should look at making their pricing more competitive in order to compete against Tweed,’ he said.
Lismore Art in the Heart campaign’s Stephen Nelson told members how the many ‘pop-up shops’ were springing up in Lismore as a way of revitalising that town.
Mr Nelson said pop-up shops are vacant CBD premises licensed to artists for short-term leases, a phenomenon becoming widespread in the UK, USA as well as Australian cities such as Newcastle and Lismore.
He said the project not only filled the empty spaces but created a tourist attraction and offered another reason for people to come into the CBD. The artists usually create their work in the shops, thereby sparking more of an interest for passers-by.
The chamber meeting was also attended by Tweed Shire Council general manager Mike Rayner, mayor Barry Longland, member for Lismore, Thomas George, chief executive of Destination Tweed, Bill Tatchell, who along with retailers and service providers, will be part of a task force to get the ‘Pop Up Murwillumbah’ campaign off the ground.
Its first meeting to create an action plan is due to be held in the next few weeks. If you can help out, contact the chamber at: [email protected]
Meanwhile, the chamber was told the Tweed Regional Gallery, which attracted 77, 000 visitors in 2011, will soon become the largest regional gallery in Australia.
MP Thomas George suggested that as a result of this fact and the high percentage of artists in the Northern Rivers, Murwillumbah could be labelled the art centre of Australia.
‘Just as Casino is the Beef Capital of Australia, Murwillumbah could become the arts capital of Australia,’ he said.
Interested locals are urged to join in the conversation on making Murwillumbah a more attractive place to visit and shop in at: www.facebook.com/murwillumbahchamber