Local activation initiative works for everyone

High St Northcote stands out as a destination for funky, eclectic stores. To keep that momentum going in spite of long term vacancies on the strip, Darebin City Council had a plan.

Active Spaces in Darebin, an initiative run by council, reinvigorates shop fronts by turning them into art displays or pop-up shops.  The program began with four previously long-term vacant shops, which have already displayed art created by 30 local artists and designers.

Offshoot launch Dec 2012 021A collective of three designers, known as Offshoot, occupied the first pop up shop in the Active Spaces program. Located at 217 High Street Northcote, Offshoot sold a range of dresses, shirts and skirts, all handmade in Darebin.

The property that Offshoot occupied has now successfully found a long-term tenant in local business The Friendship Tree.

“Pop up shops placed by Council within these vacant tenancies reveal the retail spaces as the active, vibrant places they are intended to be – it helps gives potential tenants a true indication of what is possible within the spaces,” said Darebin Mayor, Cr Tim Laurence.

Martin Camilleri, owner of 217 High Street which housed Offshoot, explained why he’s came on board, “It’s a win/win situation – the pop up shop offers an opportunity to establish and test a new business initiative while showcasing the property for potential long-term lease arrangements.”

Warren Lane, one of the first artists to be involved in the Active Spaces program, recently won the 2013 Bald Archy prize for his controversial portrait of Gina Rinehart.

Sixteen further pop up small arts businesses are on Council’s waiting list for a suitable retail space in Darebin, including a photographic exhibition from the Wilderness Society, entitled The Power and the Passion.

Council is currently in talks with a number of real estate agents and property owners to secure further sites appropriate for the Active Spaces program.

We are watching with interest as this exciting initiative continues to grow, and offer opportunities for building owners, artists, aspiring businesses and consumers.

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The importance of being positive

How many customer service training sessions have you been on? Probably a lot. And it’s because it’s so easy to get it wrong. There really is only one thing to remember  – stay positive.

Research into positive psychology and our emotional wellbeing has looked into the affect positive emotions have on our thinking. When we feel positive emotions, like contented, joyful, loving or interested, our thoughts and actions open up and consider new possibilities. Joy, for instance, creates the urge to play, push the limits and be more creative (Research by Barbara Fredickson).

Basically, it’s a lot easier to talk to others, work with others and be more productive yourself, in a positive frame of mind. So providing great customer service will become so much easier.

The great news is that learning to effectively deal with your emotions, and the emotions of others, is a skill that can be learnt. The benefits are enormous. Here’s a few examples:

A top performing sales person or clerk is 12 times more productive than those at the bottom and 85 percent more productive than an average performer. Competency research in over 200 companies and organizations worldwide suggests that about one-third of this difference is due to technical skill and cognitive ability while two-thirds is due to emotional competence (Goleman, 1998). (In top leadership positions, over four-fifths of the difference is due to emotional competence.)

At L’Oreal, sales agents selected on the basis of certain emotional competencies significantly outsold salespeople selected using the company’s old selection procedure. On an annual basis, salespeople selected on the basis of emotional competence sold $91,370 more than other salespeople did, for a net revenue increase of $2,558,360. Salespeople selected on the basis of emotional competence also had 63% less turnover during the first year than those selected in the typical way (Spencer & Spencer, 1993; Spencer, McClelland, & Kelner, 1997).

So essentially, people who understand themselves and their feelings better, and know how to handle them, are more productive and generate more income.

How good are you at handling stress? What are your triggers that make you angry or anxious? What can you do to improve your ability to handle difficulties and still perform?

It’s all about practice. Been to some customer service training? Go over the notes again and see what else you can learn from it. Put reminders up around your workplace. Do some reading on positive psychology and emotional intelligence. Ask family and friends for some honest feedback. Remember, there are Buddhist monks practicing this full time, their whole lives, for emotion control to become second nature. Keep trying, keep learning, and try to experience joy, contentment, drive and satisfaction often. It might even brighten your customers’ day too.

George St on show

There’s currently an exhibition running about George St Sydney and it’s future as an attractive destination.

The exhibition, Next stop: 21st century George Street, is arranged like a movie set to show Sydneysiders the detailed plans to remake Sydney’s main street and to seek their feedback on key design issues before they are finalised.

The City is contributing $220 million to the NSW Government’s light rail project to make George Street one of the world’s great plazas, with 25,000 square metres of roadway turned into a huge, tree-lined pedestrian boulevard.

The QVB as it is today

The QVB as it is today

The QVB area proposed
The QVB area proposed

“Light rail gives us a chance to revitalise the entire city centre, not just transforming George Street but also the laneways that run off it, making the city an exciting place to explore,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.

“At the moment, George Street is choked by day and drab at night. This exhibition shows we can make it a wonderful wide boulevard where people will want to walk, shop, dine and meet up with friends. To get it right demands good design. That’s why we are asking people who live, work and visit the city to come to the exhibition, to see the designs and tell us how we can make them the best they can be.”

By August, they will have finalised a development agreement defining how much of George Street will be reserved for pedestrians only.

The architect of converting George Street into a 21st century boulevard, leading Danish urban designer Jan Gehl, first called for removing cars from George Street seven years ago. He said the pedestrianised area should be made as big as possible because international experience showed that’s what people want.

“We’ll see a whole promenade culture in Sydney, which we already have in a number of cities around the world – most notably and remarkably in New York. There, they have closed greater parts of Broadway and turned a major traffic street into a major people street where thousands of people now sit, relax and dine, rather than shuffling around,” he said.

“People will start to ask for more quality in more places, and we’ll see this new way of treating the city centre expanded to other parts of this major street,” he said.

Exciting things happening in Sydney!

Read more about how closing areas to traffic can increase sales for retailers here.

Australian Square today

Australian Square today

The proposed Australia Square
The proposed Australia Square

They’re coming! Are you ready?

With Australia a little less scathed with the GFC than other countries around the world, many global retailers are setting their sights here for their next store openings. Look who’s just announced they are on their way:

  • Yoghurtland is a US based frozen yoghurt franchise. They have just opened a store in Cambelltown, Sydney and plan to open about 100 more in the next 3 years.
  • US furniture manufacturer Blu Dot has opened its first store in Sydney.
  • Tom Ford clothing is looking for sites in Sydney and Melbourne.

And that’s just in the last week!

With more and more international players looking to expand here, it is more important than ever to increase your engagement with your customers. Make them advocates for your brand.

Do you have a brand experience plan? How are you regularly connecting with your customers and reminding them of the great service you offer? Consumers want to support local businesses, but you have to make it easy for them.

If you need any assistance in getting your branding together, we can help. If you need to define your brand values, make sure your branding is across your whole customer experience or need to generate activities to engage you customers, let us know.

Round up of interestingness

As we are recovering from a chocolate egg hand over this week, we thought instead of our usual post, we’d collate some of the interesting things we have posted about over the last 6 months of the local experience. You may have missed some, you may need a reminder. Here goes..

We talked about consumers and what they want in All about Generation C; and Are you providing a great fashion experience?

We talked about some techniques for attracting customers like maps; play and creating fun experiences and we asked Fed Square in Melbourne how they were doing it. We also looked at how ‘walking friendly‘ areas are more profitable to local businesses.

We covered some controversy and how to handle it when we talked about Castlemaine’s state festival, and when we examined if mainstreets should be closed.

And we looked at techniques you can use to build engagement with your customers, like storytelling and welcoming.

Phew, I think that’s enough. Some great content there. If there’s anything you’d like us to explore, please let us know. Thank you for your readership over these past months, it’s been a fabulous journey and we are excited about whats next.

NEWSFLASH: Have you booked a ticket to the Mainstreet Australia Conference in Melbourne in May? Early bird offers have been extended so now is the time. I will be speaking on the Tuesday about localism and how you can take advantage of it, so I’ll see you there!