Queenstown retail veteran embraces web

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A veteran Queenstown shopkeeper has closed her store to explore the wide world of web retail. 

After 31 years, four different shops and eight locations, Elaine Elliott has shut her Church Street luggage and bag store TAG to develop the “travel away gear” business online.

“I’m reinventing,” Elliott says.

“I couldn’t sit there any longer in the shop waiting for people to come to me.”

The younger generation has “definitely” discarded ‘retail therapy’, Elliott says, adding that shopper counts are being affected.

The biggest change Elliott’s witnessed in three decades is “how people purchase now”.

“We no longer go into a store and actually physically pay for something and take it home with us.” 

While “there are still people of a certain age group who love to shop, still love to look”, Elliott says even they are more inclined to buy from websites.

The veteran toyed with selling her business “but TAG is my baby so it’s going to be twice as good”.

Elliott looks forward to her new direction: “I’ve always believed you have to change with the times and that’s exactly what I’m doing.

“If you can’t embrace change, you shouldn’t be in retail.”

This local retailer knows her onions.

“Retail’s in my blood,” Elliott says, recounting her family grocery shop roots in rural Southland before father Errol Bulling moved to Queenstown to set up gem and jade stores.

Elliott and husband Les made their first retail move in 1982 with No.10 The Mall in downtown Queenstown and later added the Studio Shop on Shotover St.

After The Mall building was demolished, the self-titled Elliotts opened as a luggage and bag store in Upper Beach St in 1994, moving to the Wakatipu Arcade in 1999.

Wiped out by the big flood two weeks later, Elliott also lost another Wakatipu Arcade shop in 2007 when fire engulfed the arcade.

Elliott opened TAG in 2009.

The CBD retail queen has some nuggets for virgin independent retailers.

“My whole thing is creativity – think of new things. Base your business on integrity, enthusiasm and good communication skills.

“Queenstown has always been the New Zealand leader in retail,” Elliott believes.

“We were once the only place [in the country] open all weekend – we’d be open till 10, 11 o’clock at night,” she says.

And rampantly rising retail rents?

Elliott’s circumspect: “People talk about rents being too high – I think a lot of people [setting up Queenstown shops] are misinformed.”

After more than 30 years, there’s another big bee in this businesswoman’s bonnet – locals’ discounts.

Such discounts give the impression of “things being expensive in Queenstown”, Elliott protests.

“It’s such a fallacy, such a false representation – my markups have never really changed over the years.”

Elliott: “As far as I’m concerned, everybody gets treated the same.”