By Matt Cowley
I have recently had the pleasure of interviewing a variety of local experts on possible solutions for the region's post-Covid-19 recovery.
I want to share some of these solutions with you, although you can catch the full series on the Tauranga Chamber's YouTube channel.
• Matt Cowley: What the Budget needs to deliver on in the Bay of Plenty
• Covid 19 coronavirus: Matt Cowley - Our economic recovery will not be like turning on the ignition in your car
• Matt Cowley: Covid 19 coronavirus: The month New Zealand stood still
• Increased support for Bay of Plenty businesses affected by Covid-19 now available
Covid has caused massive disruption to the way we previously did business. A rare silver lining is that Covid put all businesses on the same start line for understanding the new economy.
It is a tough time for small businesses, particularly the hospitality, tourism and retail sector. Their customers now have new expectations and new spending behaviours.
Businesses should be trialling things to better understand their customers' new behaviours. This is easier said than done as the biggest challenge for small businesses is having the finances to implement new changes, to keep up with customers' new spending behaviours.
A prime example is digital enablement. It is easy for a retailer to set up a website for customers to buy online. But it also requires automation of various internal processes, otherwise it just duplicates the pain points for the business and the customer.
Where money is tight, the experts I interviewed recommended partnering with other businesses to share staff resources and look at joint marketing campaigns. This is particularly important if businesses share similar types of customers.
This emphasises the important role of local businesses overtly sharing their favourite local eateries, shops, entertainment spots and places to stay, especially to visiting tourists.
Businesses who can form partnerships will generally find it easier to come out of a tough winter than others who try to do it alone.
In this climate, committing to a multi-year six-figure per annum lease for a local retail or hospitality business owner is a significant hurdle.
New models between the landlord and tenant need to be developed so our streets remain vibrant throughout our recovery. Landlords could be open to other financial incentives from tenants - such as percentage of revenue payments or equity options - in lieu of full rent.
It is in everyone's best interests for neighbouring landlords and tenants to work together, and create a vibrant place where people want to visit. This will make tenancies more attractive.
The sense of partnerships should also spread across tourism regions as there is also a bigger opportunity for the coastal Bay of Plenty region.
It would be great for neighbouring areas to jointly market our wider region to elongate domestic tourist stays over the upcoming school holidays.
We would offer an attractive combined package, especially to Aucklanders, by connecting our coastal region's offerings with the contrasting products in Rotorua, Taupo and Hobbiton.
Our No 8 wire mentality shows we are an innovative bunch when we are faced with scarce resources. The Bay's small business owners have the fortitude to carry on and adjust to the new environment. Let's work together and help each other out.
Matt Cowley is the chief executive of the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce.