The re-emergence of the Activate Vacant Spaces programme in Downtown Tauranga has got off to a flying start with the opening of a new social enterprise venture.

The Activate Vacant Spaces programme is an initiative which matches property owners in Tauranga with individuals who have creative ideas for temporary projects. It has secured a site for Dress for Success Bay of Plenty's new retail fundraising venture, Classic Couture, which opened on Saturday.

The store, at 67 Devonport Rd, will be open Tuesday to Saturday selling donated pre-loved and "gently worn" clothes and accessories.

Dress for Success is a non-profit charitable organisation which helps disadvantaged women and men achieve economic independence by providing support, work-appropriate attire, and development tools to help people thrive personally and professionally.

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It relies on donations, grants and fundraising and also runs training programmes.

The funds raised in store will go towards Dress for Success' redundancy and re-employment community programmes.

The Tauranga Activate Vacant Spaces team managed to secure the site for the store rent-free for at least three months.

Dress for Success Bay of Plenty president Michelle Pleydell said at a time when charities were struggling it was inspiring to know local businesses were prepared to help.

"The Activate programme may literally be a lifeline for us, and we look forward to working more closely with our landlord Allan [Gifford ]over the coming months."

Pleydell said if the store was well-supported they would aim to secure a long-term lease for a permanent fundraising venture.

"This is not just about selling recycled and vintage clothing, it's also the opportunity for us to help train our clients in the art of retail, in particular about customer service, stock management, merchandising, and so on.

"We are entering an age when so many clients are being made redundant and they need a lot more help in terms of training, resilience and confidence and clothing is part of that."

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Landlord Allan Gifford said he was looking forward to having a long-standing commercial relationship with Pleydell and Dress for Success.

"We are all about giving people a hand-up rather than a handout and it was a no-brainer that Classic Couture occupies this site as they do such great work in our community.

"This is a perfect space for this venture. I'm sure the store will be successful with the Tauranga community's support and it will help to revitalise this part of the CBD."

Lacey Saul ( left) and Kim Williams attended the Classic Couture store opening. Photo/ Sandra Conchie
Lacey Saul ( left) and Kim Williams attended the Classic Couture store opening. Photo/ Sandra Conchie

Kim Williams from Bethlehem and Lacey Saul from Bellevue were among the invited guests at the store opening.

Williams said she had been a regular supporter of Dress for Success for a couple of years.

"The Dress for Success team does awesome work and I know their programmes make a real difference to people's lives and that's why I would much rather donate to this charity than some others in the community."

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Saul said with so many people losing their jobs due to Covid-19, the work Dress for Success did would become even more vital and she hoped the store was well patronised.

Tauranga Activate Vacant Spaces Team spokeswoman Sally Cooke said she was delighted the venture had been given a helping hand.

"Our role is to match creative and entrepreneurial initiatives with those vacant spaces and develop an agreed partnership for exhibitions, installations and retail ventures.

"Finding a suitable location for this venture is a great outcome as it retains a great community-minded initiative within the city centre and sees the Activate programme working to attract, nurture and facilitate medium to long-term tenancies," she said.

"We hope the public come out and support this empowering venture and also visit our other city centre activations and businesses while they are here.

"Our city-centre businesses need support and need us to buy local and buy Tauranga."

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