When seeking to boost prosperity and bring in jobs, many places look to attract a call centre, manufacturing business or an innovative IT operation.

But in Whanganui we do things differently, and this week the call went out for a cobbler, an engraver and a speciality baker - all apparent gaps in retail offerings, though there was no call for the proverbial candlestick-maker.

Thinking outside the shoebox, the call came from councillor Helen Craig, who chairs the town centre regeneration project.

It raised a few quizzical eyebrows.


Was this an off-the-cuff response to the sudden departure of Whanganui & Partners general manager Philippa Ivory which has left the town's economic development programme somewhat in the lurch?

But no - Craig's press release came out before Ivory put in her notice, and it was sparked by a survey of retailers and services in the central business district.

In a distracted moment, one conjured up images of a blacksmith, wheelwright, cartwright and that guy who fixes holes in saucepans - a tinker - lining up along Victoria Avenue.

I had the feeling no one used a cobbler these days. Massed-produced cheap shoes are plentiful and it seems that when they start to fall apart the tendency is just to chuck them out and get another pair.

But perhaps I was just thinking of school shoes, which might last one term if you are lucky.

Craig pointed out that she and other wearers of "gorgeous" shoes had to go to Palmerston North to get them repaired. No question of them being thrown in the bin and buying a new pair.

And as the owner of a nunber of pairs of shoes that are at least 20 years old, I am happy to come in behind the cobbler idea.

As the councillor noted, if people go to Palmy for a service they can't get here, they are likely to make a day of it and do other shopping which means Whanganui stores missing out.


And the press release had the beneficial effect of a couple of local engravers putting their hands up - so if you didn't know they were there, now you do - while we also have Victoria Ave stores that will courier your shoes to a cobbler.

So, rather than shooting herself in her well-shod foot, Craig has got us thinking of what other missing services and businesses we could do with.

I need a new suit ... what's the chance of a tailor setting up in town?