Economic shifts in the past two years have put pressure on main streets and activity centres to deliver services and opportunities for local communities. Local governments are increasingly seeking effective ways to cut through the noise and understand changes in community lifestyle behaviour, habits, and trends to foster economic resilience and sustainable growth.
In this blog post, we leveraged the Neighbourlytics platform to analyse 20 local government main street precincts across Australia to understand how urban life activity has changed over the last year.
The preliminary sample was chosen based on several criteria, including a medium population size ranging from 106,000 to 480,000, strategic locations in high growth corridors, and representation from each state.
What can we learn from top-performing main streets?
The activity was primarily driven by hospitality and retail, but those that performed the best by attracting the most people also demonstrated increases in adjacent reasons to visit, such as public space, community services and health and wellness.
While the driving force behind this increase in activity was primarily hospitality and retail, the main streets that attracted the most people also saw increases in adjacent reasons to visit, such as public spaces, community services, and health and wellness offerings.
Let’s look at one example, Hampton in Bayside.
Arts and Culture-related activity in Bayside included events and activities and public space activation, which drove a substantial increase in activity in the area.
Example: Bayside – Hampton, Victoria
What can we learn from slow growth main streets?
Conversely, we also identified the main streets that experienced slower growth in activity during the same period:
While retail and hospitality remained a strong attractor in these locations, there was a lack of diversity in reasons to visit, resulting in an overall decrease in community services, public spaces, arts and culture, and health and wellness activities.
Let’s look at Logan as an example.
Despite a strong hospitality sector, Logan witnessed a decline in community performance, suggesting a need for a more robust mix of activations to attract visitors and boost overall activity.
Example: Logan, Queensland
How do the neighbourhoods compare?
To provide a comprehensive understanding of the performance of main street precincts, we ranked the 20 local government areas based on the percentage increases in urban life activity over the past year.
The ranking highlights both vibrant neighbourhoods and areas with significant potential for improvement.
April 2022 to April 2023
Reducing Main Street vulnerability and supporting economic growth
Drawing on this analysis, we offer some key insights for all Councils and stakeholders involved in supporting vibrant main streets and local destinations.
These recommendations include:
Diversify the mix beyond retail and hospitality
The lack of variety in community amenities may create economic vulnerability for many main street precincts.
It was clear to see that retail and hospitality have been driving performance for the majority of main street precincts but during economic down, activity levels are declining as consumer spending contracts.
Without a wider offering of local amenities such as community facilities, public space, health and arts and culture, it limits opportunities to attract local people to visit and stay in the neighbourhood.
If one type of destination is dominant, such as retail, it can make a precinct vulnerable to change as it limits activity to times of the day or week and increases economic vulnerability during the downturn of an industry.
Leverage cultural activities and public space
Major arts & cultural events lifted public space usage and retail and hospitality performance.
We could clearly see a direct correlation between successful major Arts or Cultural events, an uplift in public space usage, and increases in retail and hospitality performance.
Adelaide City Council is an excellent example with a significant spike in retail performance in March 2023, aligning with increases in Arts & Culture and use of Public Space across the total CBD with the success of a string of major events in the east end including the Adelaide Fringe Festival, Adelaide Festival, and WOMADelaide.
Adelaide CBD: Activity performance
Increase adjacent reasons to visit
Neighbourhoods that offer adjacent reasons to visit, such as vibrant community spaces, public spaces that meet the needs of residents and excellent health facilities, also experience a notable boost in retail activity.
These additional attractions not only enhance the overall appeal of the area but also create a positive ripple effect by attracting more visitors and increasing foot traffic. The intertwining of community, health, and retail elements forms a dynamic ecosystem that breathes life into a precinct.
Unlock the power of Neighbourlytics
Neighbourlytics is a powerful tool for understanding and navigating the impact of economic shifts on residents and businesses. Our comprehensive urban life insights are tailor-made to help economic development managers tackle the challenges of economic development head-on.
With Neighbourlytics, you gain access to valuable community lifestyle and behavioural insights that empower you to make informed decisions and develop strategies that resonate with your community, fostering economic resilience.
Here’s a glimpse of how our platform can revolutionise your approach:
Understand activity trends:
Dive into our 12-month analysis of activity trends across a precinct. Uncover the real-time impact of economic changes on residents’ lifestyle behaviours, enabling you to adapt strategies accordingly and stay ahead of the curve.
Analyse visitation patterns:
Gain deep insights into where residents travel to and understand the origin of visitors. Identify amenity gaps and attractors, empowering you to strategically invest in the right areas and create a magnetic environment that keeps people coming back.
Harness activity hotspots:
Pinpoint the buzzing activity hotspots within your precinct. Understand day and night activity patterns and weekday and weekend dynamics. Identify adjacent reasons for visitation and optimise public space infrastructure investment, all while streamlining operational costs.
Strengthen the amenity mix:
Identify gaps and opportunities in the variety of amenities across your precinct. With this knowledge, you can attract investment and bolster the local amenity mix, creating a vibrant environment that caters to the diverse needs and desires of your community.
Leverage community activity:
Uncover the key drivers behind community activity and optimise your activation strategy. Identify the most relevant community organisations in your precinct, allowing you to co-create strategies that foster economic activity and enhance community well-being.
Implement targeted marketing and promotion:
Gain a deep understanding of the lifestyle trends within your local government area. Leverage this knowledge to launch targeted marketing campaigns that attract residents, visitors, and investors. By driving economic growth, you also foster community engagement and cultivate a vibrant local culture.
Neighbourlytics empowers economic development managers to seize opportunities, address challenges, and build a thriving and resilient local economy. Together, let’s unlock the full potential of your community and drive sustainable economic growth.