Greymouth retailers urged to rethink opening hours for West Coast tourists

By Laura Mills -
Even during weekends, when the Tranz Alpine train arrived only a handful of shops were open. Photo / File
Even during weekends, when the Tranz Alpine train arrived only a handful of shops were open. Photo / File

Hundreds of tourists are milling around downtown Greymouth at weekends and evenings looking for something to do.

The handful of retailers who stay open say it is well worthwhile and they have urged others to follow suit.

The Greymouth Star checked town on December 30, when it was sunny, and again on New Year's Day, when it was overcast, between 7.30pm and 8.30pm.

Tourists were walking aimlessly around the clocktower and miners' memorial. A couple of cafes that opened were busy, but retail shops - with the exception of The Warehouse - were closed.

Millennium and Copthorne Hotels managing director B K Chiu said he would like to see a cluster of shops open around the new town square being developed.

Millennium has committed to upgrading the Kingsgate Hotel and already had the budget in place.

Even during weekends, when the Tranz Alpine train arrived only a handful of shops were open - The Warehouse, Postie, Noel Leeming and Shades of Jade, Chiu said.

"The idea is to have a cluster, where people can see more things without having to walk far."

Outside the central business district, Monteith's Brewery is one business that does stay open, right up till 9pm in summer.

Monteith's spokesman Nick Rogers said tourism was growing every month, "there's no doubt about it" and tourists did not care what day of the week it was.

"We are open every night. They are on holiday.

"We do have to change our ways a little."

He had heard the comment there was not enough to do in Greymouth at night.

"There is definitely demand," Mr Rodgers said.

People often arrived in Greymouth later during the longer summer nights, often from Nelson via the Buller Gorge and Punakaiki, staying overnight on their way to the glaciers.

"We've got to be accommodating."

The Regent Theatre is another business which is looking to cater for the increasing number of Asian tourists in town.

Manager Patrick McBride said he had looked into screening Asian movies at night in the smaller theatre, specifically for the tourist market.

"We have looked into catering for them."

The theatre got a lot of tourists in every day, particularly Australians.

Tourism West Coast chief executive Jim Little said that while a lot of Greymouth businesses would not pick up additional sales by staying open, cafes, jade and gift shops may.

"A lot of people are Chinese tour groups.

They have an early tea and are on the road (the next morning) pretty early. They are not the people to go to pubs or bars. They are on a pretty tight schedule," Little said.

Currently there was not a lot for them to do if they did not have transport, other than some good walks.

Some were looking for high-end shopping experiences with designer brands, he said.

Stewart Nimmo Gallery often stays open late and owner Stewart Nimmo said if a group of shops agreed to do the same, and it proved economic, he would be supportive.

- Greymouth Star

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