On 4 May TRM showed some images of “Market Day” on Saturday morning in the mall and received wonderful feedback response. These various organic food and novelty touristy stalls every Saturday are such a delight for tourists accompanied by live music from the band and choir to keep everyone entertained.
During the summer many inmates commented so favourably that we had to check it out. The “village market” stalls are part of the rural charm and reflect the distinct local character of small towns like Turangi. For the live music alone. if that was in Auckland there would be a long waiting queue just to find a car park and and they would charge admission just to get in the gate.
At the time we posted it on fb as follows: Specially for inmates – anglers wives and partners – SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed is the manager of everything including architectural design at TRM) has been analysing, as only She can, to determine which is the best shop for tourists in Turangi. Final winner will follow at end of May. I promise you will be very surprised if early results continue to track… Watch this space…
So this is just to mention that if you have a favourite shop you like to visit each time you stay in Turangi then drop SWMBO a line…
and mention why you find it so appealing. The winner for “Tourists Choice Shop” will be announced at the end of May.
Considering that Turangi’s resident population is now less than 3,000 (and steadily declining over the last forty years!), tourists are fortunate there is such a compact mall with a wide variety of shops, all within easy walking distance of TRM. One of the delights of living in a small town is that guests can walk to everything. Apart from the main attraction – the Tongariro River – this includes the mall with the much admired library (with the biggest selection of trout fishing books than any other library in NZ – see image above), a choice of six cafes and bars, the Post Office (and bank) now relocated in the Stationery shop, three tackle shops, two supermarkets, family tavern, plus a variety of retail shops catering more for tourists.
Taupo Council’s own demographic projections indicate a 25% reduction in Turangi’s population in next 25 years. Then the mall will die. Therefore something needs to be done now to prevent that from happening.
Every small town in NZ suffers from vacant shops so that is no surprise. All over the world conventional retail shops suffer from severe competition over the web, to buy on-line, and Turangi is no exception. But a further aberration in Turangi is that the mall was designed for a resident population of about 9,000 but less than 3000 live here. The tourist population quickly swells to over 10,000 during peak holiday periods.
Apart from a couple of more modern structures – like the library and (heated pools) aquatic complex – the shopping mall is in fact a classic – traditional 1960’s retail mall style designed by the MOW (Ministry of Works). Many locals may not believe that. Some have criticised it but may not realise that tourists – the economic life blood of Turangi – find it fascinating as a genuine art deco architectural gem of that period about fifty years ago. Therefore many have suggested the honest functional 1960’s architectural integrity should be preserved.
Elsewhere throughout NZ most other “period” malls of a similar architectural merit have now been redeveloped but Turangi still retains that original 1960’s “feel”. Tourists have reported back to TRM they prefer to retain the spacious mall as it is and keep cars away in the large carparks on either side of the development. For pedestrian shoppers, it functions well. Other similar designed malls in Naenae in Lower Hutt or Glenn Innes in Auckland have lost that “mall feel”. Successful precedents of older period style time capsules as shopping precincts include Victorian Devonport in Auckland, 1930’s designs Napier or stone structures in Oamaru, where their tourist value lies in their original design integrity.
The Council report on Turangi’s economic future considered options for changing traffic flows but that will not fill empty shops. The only way is to increase customers foot traffic – aka tourists. The same report conclusion allocated top priority to increasing tourist traffic by constructing a bike trail to Taupo and to the Lake. They confidently advised the likely effects would be “transformational”. The report appears to have been ignored since but Turangi needs to take notice. Other NZ towns have had their local economy turned around by tourist bike trails. Recent examples include Paeroa, Waihi and Te Aroha on the Hauraki Trail. Previously empty shops dominated these towns. Now they are all full and trading well. Even new motels have been developed to cope with the increase in tourists – compared to this region where four motels have closed in the last decade. Turangi should learn from them. TRM fb on Monday included a 1971 article on the Turangi Museum (which was part of the visitor centre back then) celebrating 250,000 visitors to view the pre-maori exhibits excavated from the Tokaanu tail race as part of the Tongariro Power Project – imagine if that was located in the mall?
So back to Turangi’s top shop… Sadly some disqualified themselves by being closed on weekends. That is the busiest time for tourists shopping. Some others such as New World (Locally known as the Third World?) were excluded as they were not catering for tourists. The survey was restricted to tourists – like anglers’ wives or partners.
If anglers opinions had been included then we suspect only three tackle shops would have been in the survey. They are a real tourist feature in little Turangi. No other town of this small size in NZ could sustain three trout fishing tackle shops. Not even Taupo.
So we look forward to more tourists feedback on their favourite Turangi shop. Based on early analysis I know you will be surprised. I was, in fact, very surprised… Watch this space.