A Queenstown-based national retailer with huge faith in the resort’s tourism future continues to open more doors.
After several knockbacks, Aotea New Zealand Souvenirs finally attended Trenz in Auckland last month after tourism retail was at last admitted to NZ’s premier tourism trade show.
Now this month the group has signed up for its third store in Queenstown’s CBD.
Aotea is taking over The Mall premises formerly occupied by Paper Plus, which chose not to renew its lease.
Following a refit, Aotea will open a Naturally New Zealand Gifts outlet there in July.
In addition to 245 squares metres of ground floor store space, Aotea has also rented 111sq m upstairs for its head office, which for the past year has been in Frankton’s Glenda Drive.
Aotea – originally started by Joan and Peter Hanson in Auckland in 1979 – opened its first Queenstown store at the bottom of Beach Street 25 years ago.
Seven years ago it opened Koha Queenstown, also in Beach St.
Peter Hanson says his group also intends opening a small upmarket store selling NZ-made products in the former Japan Travel Bureau premises beside Aotea NZ Souvenirs.
Aotea also operates in Rotorua and Tekapo and had a store in Christchurch till it was destroyed in the 2011 earthquake.
However, Hanson reserves his greatest confidence for Queenstown’s tourism future, especially FITs – or free independent travellers – from Asian markets.
“We focus on everything but the Asian markets are the ones who are very much into taking presents home.
“Two-thirds of our product is under our Avoca brand which is NZ-made and that focuses on merino and possum knitwear and accessories, leather garments from baby lamb slinks, and possum fur, as well as NZ biscuits, chocolate, honey and food items – all of which are very much in demand with Asian visitors.
“We saw a gap for these products because it’s an expanding market.”
Hanson, who runs Aotea with sons Donald and Richard, sees China as the big opportunity.
Although only about 20 per cent of Chinese visitors to NZ currently make it to Queenstown, he predicts that figure will jump to about 50 per cent as the market grows.
Aotea’s deal in The Mall was negotiated by local Colliers International leasing broker Mary-Jo Hudson, along with landlord Bernard Cleary whose father, property mogul Eamon Cleary, died last year.
Hanson says the rent is mid-level for The Mall – “it’s well under $1000 [per sq m]”.