Cash vouchers to lure back shoppers
New Sydney Road manager says graffiti clean up is a priority
Tuesday, November 16, 2021
VOUCHERS worth $100 will be handed out randomly to shoppers over the next few Saturdays in a bid to reactivate Brunswick’s Sydney Road strip.
The Sydney Road Business Association will be operating stalls up and down the street over the next three weeks and use the vouchers to lure shoppers back after the long lockdown during winter.
Attracting more locals and tourists back into shops is the first and over-riding priority for the new manager of the SRBA, Troy Stuchbree.
Mr Stuchbree, who began in the role last month, has hit the ground running, introducing himself to business owners, familiarising himself with the strip and preparing to open a new shopfront and traders’ hub, while also overseeing plans to revive retail activity.
Although vacancies got as high as one-in-five during this year’s lockdowns, Mr Stuchbree said Sydney Road appeared to have weathered the downturn better than some other shopping strips around Melbourne. But he admitted graffiti and vandalism had left the strip looking tatty and neglected.
“We’ve actually welcomed 10 or 12 new businesses since June this year, and while there are number of ‘for lease’ signs up, the number hasn’t actually changed that much during the COVID pandemic,” he said.
“One thing that we’ve noticed and will be a challenge moving forward is while lockdown happened and the street was quiet for some time, it’s attracted a lot of graffiti and vandalism so we’re going to try to have a focus on being able to clean up the strip and target the graffiti and try to bring it back to its old self.”
Funded through a council levy on traders, the SRBA is a marketing and advocacy body for the 2.5km stretch from Brunswick Road to Moreland Road.
Mr Stuchbree, 30 and from a marketing and events background, has replaced Claire Perry, who retired this year after about two decades in the job. He has begun work ahead of the association’s annual general meeting at the end of the month.
“I’ve clocked up quite a few kilometres so far slowly getting around and introducing myself to everyone, but she’s [Ms Perry] left very big shoes to fill and done wonderful work for the community over that time,” he said.
“She’s ingrained in so much of what’s happened around here.”
Mr Stuchbree was already familiar with Sydney Road from having worked on events for the SRBA.
“I love the diversity of Sydney Road, but also the progression,” he said.
“Every block of Sydney Road offers something completely different and there’s a huge variety of diversity within shops and culturally.
“It’s also got such a wonderful community feel. I think especially coming out of COVID and coming out of being in heavy restrictions and lockdown, community and being able to support local is really going to be at the forefront of customer experience, having understood that big business have been getting their fair share and having people wanting to come out and support small business.”
The first activity to lure back shoppers will be a series of ‘special Saturdays’ beginning on November 20 until December 11. There will be roaming performers, and the SRBA will be handing out cloth bags, some of which will contain mystery vouchers worth $100 to be spent at different shops on Sydney Road.
Each weekend will focus on a different area along the strip, beginning with the Anstey precinct between Victoria and Albion streets.
On November 27 and December 4, the popular Festive Art on Windows program will return for a fourth year when local artists are commissioned to paint shop windows with colourful and extravagant illustrations.
While these activities are primarily aimed at local shoppers, the SRBA also has advertising planned in cinemas, wedding magazines and on radio to bring back tourists from around Melbourne.
“Local shopping is hugely important because it’s the driving force behind the strip continuing to thrive, but also tourism plays a large factor in people being able to come to the strip and discover what Sydney Road, Brunswick has to offer,” Mr Stuchbree said.
“That could lead to people moving to the area, or people seeing Brunswick as a favourite go to for a favourite shop or a particular reason.”
As well as re-energising the strip after COVID lockdowns, Mr Stuchbree is overseeing the SRBA’s move into a new shopfront near the corner of Victoria Street which will be both an office space for its staff of two and a highly visible hub for promoting Sydney Road to locals and visitors alike.
In the new year, the SRBA plans to put more resources into helping businesses along the strip build a social media and online retailing presence.