Idle Hour book shop owners Neal and Ailsa Hawes will not be the only central city retailers to have an issue with the changing face of our CBD.

The pair were quoted in a story in yesterday's Rotorua Daily Post about the closure this coming Monday of their Eruera St store.

In referring to what he called "the demise of the CBD", Mr Hawes said it was to our council's "eternal shame" that it had allowed the development of the Central Mall and other satellite developments at the expense of the central city.

His understanding was that the "original promise" was that the mall in particular would be "big box" only.


Mr Hawes has a point about things being a lot different than they were 20 years ago when they opened.

Certainly the presence of big-box-type stores like Farmers and Deka in the central city attracted a good amount of foot traffic.

But the trend over the country is towards mall shopping - even Farmers is leaving Auckland's Queen St.

In Rotorua, many of those spaces vacated by the department stores have been filled with a variety of new retailers and much of the central city is as vibrant as ever.

And fantastic and friendly customer service can be found everywhere in Rotorua. It's always a good reason to keep coming back.

Yes, fewer people may be spending less, and yes, having the option of shopping outside the CBD may see customers go elsewhere, but there are a number of factors at play, not least online shopping and the global financial crisis of recent years.

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That said, it's incumbent on our council to keep good lines of communication open with the local businesses so vital to Rotorua's economic health and growth.

And it's incumbent on local shoppers to support local businesses where possible. Pick local over Bayfair at the Mount, Te Awa/The Base in Hamilton or online.

And consider this, the better a drawcard Rotorua Central Mall is, the less likely customers are to spend their money out of town.

Retailers may have some grounds to be dissatisfied with the council over the state of the CBD, but it deserves huge credit for its recent moves to help, including free CBD parking and, as reported today, plans to reduce the business differential rate.

Rotorua has a great range of shops in the CBD, mall and suburbs, many owned by locals, all employing locals.

What's good for those businesses - your dollar - is good for all of us.