Retail & place inspiration and news

I’ve been travelling around a bit lately and seen some really great places and retail spaces. It’s so interesting to experience what others are doing. And it can be so important to stop occasionally and admire what’s around you, and look at your own area or business in new ways.

So here goes. By no means an exhaustive list but a start:

Campaigns and engagement

I was having a chat to some retailers about loyalty the other day. I still think the Singapore coffee card example is a great idea for moving consumers around different parts of a street (but have had no brave takers to try it here…want to be first?). But I’ve also been looking into online loyalty programs. I found Punch Tab, would be interested to hear who else has tried it out. You can also run competitions via TigerPistol on social media, just like Goldsborough Lane have

We’ve noticed some happenings in Bridge Rd Richmond to fill some empty shop fronts. The people responsible are Pop Union. I’m intrigued and will report more!

Everyone is ‘popping up’ – from museums to learning centres in Melbourne’s outer easter suburbs.

My local area has been trying out some new things. There’s been a busking festival. And they are now on facebook, which is a great way to share what all the businesses in the street are doing and grow your fan base.

Retail spaces

I love capturing moments with my camera. Here’s a collection of photos from inside some of Melbourne’s top retail spots.

thekitchengarden Idreamahighway DSC_0867 brunswickboundeliana design drfollicles-2 Archie Store rathdowne fabrics

















Other interesting things

If you’ve ever thought about crowdfunding a project, this is a great example. The Creating Cities crowdfunding project from Marcus of Renew Australia broke new records.

Also on funding, a pool funding model for small business was discussed at the Business for Local Living Economies Conference recently. Would it work here? Interesting to see how where this one goes…

And finally there’s a new leader at the helm of Destination Melbourne. Laura Cavallo took over from Chris Buckingham earlier this month and has penned her initial thoughts here: I was fortunate to hear Laura talk about her new appointment recently and the possibilities for destination planning and management. Passionate people are exactly what cities/places need to thrive. Watch this space I’d say.

And lots more. It was lovely to visit Ballarat and its new museum of democracy (must stay longer next time) and visit Hamilton and it’s retailers for the first time. I’ll be back! Want to keep up with what I’m spotting? Like thelocalexperience on facebook…and we are pinning as well at

Had any great local experiences lately you’d like to share? What’s inspiring you right now?


Is innovation the key to prosperity? 3 steps to making innovation the norm

A recent survey of UK local government workers saw a huge third of councils think they can make 50% or more of their cost savings through redesigning the way they deliver services. But, most believe they lack the time and skills to create the sort of innovative action required to make changes.

Troubling. According to the Australia Government resources, innovation drives the productivity and performance of business, and can help you grow and improve your business.

Businesses that innovate have better productivity performance, grow fast and generate higher quality, higher paying jobs.

Innovation can benefit all aspects of business including sales and marketing, finance, human resources, and information technology.

As business innovator Tim Pethick tells Smart Company:

Effective innovation comes with customer insight. You might have a great idea but is it anchored or grounded? Many people pursue an idea without thinking about whether there is a customer need, and does the business model make sense.

You can have the best innovation at the front end, but if it is not supported at the back end that delivers to customers forget it.

So while there’s lots of information around about innovating in small or large businesses (like this one from Forbes), how can places, the local councils and committees that support, innovate?

1. Have a flexible and fast decision making process. Yes, everyone needs a say. Taking 6 months to consult with everyone on a project does not allow for an innovative and flexible approach. Debating the same issues over and over gets us nowhere. Decisions need to be made.

Suggestion: Ensure your meetings are structured so that debate happens, but a result follows. There’s a technique called idea writing that allows participants to make notes on proposals and pass those notes to others, who also make notes. The idea is that once it has been around to everyone, the issues raised are addressed and a consensus is reached. There’s also the De Bonos 6 hats approach to decision making. Pick a few techniques that will work for your group.

2. Passion is a prequisite. Is everyone in your meetings a) supposed to be there, b) excited about making positive steps forward. If not, can you screen future committee members, or have smaller meetings? While a desenting voice can be necessary for innovation, constant naysaying gets us nowhere.

Suggestion: Have a  vision setting exercise for the committee. This helps clarify what we are all here for and working towards. Set ground rules for discussion and stick to them!

3.  Have dedicated thinking or creative time. Sound like a luxury? It is necessary to be in the correct head space to think in new and creative ways and see problems from a different perspective. Research shows that we need to be in a high energy, positive mood to think of creative ideas. It is physically impossible to generate good ideas in a negative mood (but it is a perfect mood for finding faults which can also be invaluable!). It’s difficult to be in the best mindset when you are rushing around, stressed by competing demands and multitasking on every priority.

In my experience, the best results can be achieved with workshops that provide some prethinking eg provide participants with notes a week or so before the meeting. It’s also important to set the mood at the beginning of the meeting, think about music to create the vibe, have food and drink available, allow for some socialising. Remember some people are most creative when sparring off other people’s ideas, while others need to process information alone to come up with their best solutions. Allow time for all approaches for best results.

Taking innovation seriously and allowing time to actually let it happen is so critical, and will pay dividends.

As always, if you need to chat about your options, feel free to get in touch, or give Roberta a call on 0413 420 282.

Finding the people that want to know you

When watching, again, Seth Godin’s TED talk  about his bestselling book Purple Cow, then Tribes: We need you to lead us, I was again struck by the clear simple message. Yet, in practice, it’s not so simple.

The idea is to reject mass marketing. It’s old news. Now, you need think about finding the people that really care about what you are doing and talk to them. They will talk to others, and the idea will spread because you have enlisted the help of people who ‘get’ what you do, your ‘tribe’.

As Trish Weston puts it in her piece for Flying Solo:

According to some, you are doomed in business unless you find your niche. I began crafting and re-crafting my Who and What and riding endless elevators, having very brief conversations with strangers, trying to find my niche.

It wasn’t working. Everything I came up with felt really fake or incomplete, and then my mate KG asked me “Well, who are your people?”

That one question floored me. I immediately knew who I needed to be working with. I could see them, I knew what kept them awake at night, I knew how I could help them.


Great, okay, so how to do find your people?

First, ask yourself a few questions like – who is most likely to buy what you do? Who needs more information about something you know about? What sort of person are they eg where do they live, what’s their family structure, where do they work?

Once you build up this sort of picture, you then need to think about how you can get the message to them. Are there websites they go to, do they use social media and what types, are there groups they gather in like knitting circles, car clubs or sporting teams?

Then you can look at opportunities to tell people what you do through those channels. Can you sponsor the little athletics club in your area, should you have a stand at the next exhibition, do you need to pitch an article to this magazine?

It’s hard work, it needs constant reviewing, but it is what helps businesses achieve real results.

Where is your tribe hanging out, can you create a new place for them to hang out (like your facebook page, or your store)? What do they want to know about, hear or do more of? How are you going to be their ‘leader’?

Throwing open the doors, 3 things to consider

Last weekend saw The State Library of Victoria’s ‘Carnival of Curiosity’. It was a day to explore and discover new parts to the library and engage with storytelling, books, history and multimedia. Of course, it was an awesome day, attracted lots of people and I’m sure everyone came away from it with a new understanding of what the State Library has in its collection and the different services on offer. I know I did.

Can you open the doors to your business or area? If you need more people to know who you are, what you do best, and everything you have to offer, an open day type of event might work for you. How’s some things to think about to get you organised:

Promotion: Tell everyone about your event – letterbox drop the local area, post on social media, advertise, and involve local media.

Interaction: Think about ways to move people around to different parts of your street and store. Think about how to get them to learn something new while they are there – preferably in a fun way! Games, quizzes, exhibits, videos, talks, etc.

Follow up: How are you going to capture the names and email addresses of your visitors, how are you going to get them to come back again after your event? Could you ask them to interact with you on social media?

Events can be time consuming and a little overwhelming to pull together. But there are also huge rewards, imagine picking up a group of new engaged and informed customers who know and love what you do. Planned well, this is indeed what can happen.

As always, you can talk to us for help. We can put together an event plan for you and/or get organising.

Had a successful event? Tell us about it and you could feature on the local experience.

Guest post: Community activations – are they worth it?

From  Suzette Jackson, Innate Ecology

The Geelong Better Block is over, Jason Roberts, cofounder of The Better Block, has returned to the USA, and central Geelong has returned to the quiet area it was?

We have to ask, was it all worth it?


On Saturday June 15th over 80 community volunteers set up a one-day community event in the streets of central Geelong to change the way we use our urban spaces. In two streets where you can count the pedestrians on one hand, there was an estimated 800 visitors in a four-hour period, with music activities, children playing, people meeting, chatting and lingering. There was upcycled street furniture built by high school students, bunting involving children’s ideals of a better city and free activities encouraging gardening, recycling, local foods, musical groups and cycling.

By all measures the Geelong Better Block was a successful event supported by local council, but what now? Was this just a ripple or has the spirit of the Better Block inspired others to reclaim our urban streets on a more regular basis?

GBB_FruitCart_GiantGamesJason Roberts, cofounder The Better Block, a not for profit organisation, in Dallas, Texas and recipient of the Champion of Change Award at the White House 2012, recently participated in two Better Block events in Geelong and Melbourne as well as providing key note speeches at the ‘6th Making Cities Liveable Conference in Melbourne and the NSW Government annual ‘Urban Conversations’ in Sydney. The response from ‘Better Block’ participants and conference attendees were similar – engagement, wonder and joy – at finding a process, albeit temporary, that allowed a community to activate urban street space within their own community.

We are not talking radical ideas here. We are not talking anarchy or riots. We are talking community of families, people old and young from different lives coming together to socialise and help each other. What was similar for both the Geelong Better Block and the Coburg Better Block was that each event was encouraging a safe place for children, sharing of ideas and sustainable ways of life. Interestingly the Australian events were not guerrilla style events, as previously undertaken in the USA, but events coordinated with the support of local council. Was it challenging to organise with council approvals? Yes. Was it based on volunteer hours and resources? Yes. Was it a success? Most definitely.

While the ‘Coburg Better Block’ held Sunday 16th June was a residential street closure which was estimated to have attracted 150 people over three hours; the ‘Geelong Better Block’ held on Saturday 15th June attracted more than 800 people over the four-hour period based on a key theme of promoting a safe and walkable city, for a healthy and sustainable Geelong. The Geelong event activated two inner city streets with high retail vacancies and very low pedestrian traffic.

The event received national media coverage as the first ever Australian Better Block and was highlighted on The Better Block website as well as in Jason’s subsequent conference presentations. With the ‘Clovelly Better Block’ now naming the date for October 27th this year and Jason keen to revisit Australia, one has to ask what next?

How do we now translate the ideas from a temporary ‘Better Block’ into our cities and communities? Where to now?

GBB_Alfresco in CarparkInitial responses from our community survey indicate that people felt safer in the city, found new shops to visit and eat at, stayed in the area to talk and meet with people rather than just passing through and enjoyed the mix of live entertainment and street theatre provided as well as the free activities educating people on how to live more sustainably. There have also been numerous requests for Better Block events in neighbouring towns and suburbs.

We tend to forget that these streetscapes form part of our urban spaces and can be used for more than vehicle access and parking. Proactive councils Australia wide use street closures to activate urban centres, with community activities and markets, developing stronger local community and economy. Geelong community is speaking up – they want more access to our urban spaces for the community to enjoy for pedestrian, cycling and meeting. The Better Block is here to stay.


Suzette Jackson, Director, Innate Ecology was the Geelong Better Block event manager.