Melbourne takes the next step to a 24-hour city

As an avid observer and participant of all the great activities and experiences Melbourne has to offer, it has been quite astonishing to see the amount of new hospitality outlets appearing all over the CBD and inner city. This increase can be attributed to a number of different factors but in my opinion, I believe that the main factor has been the prolonged and continuous policy implementation from the City of Melbourne and the Victorian Government which have encouraged the 840,000 people that use the city daily to get involved in Melbourne's year long events calendar. As a consequence (and a positive one at that), people feel that they should stay in the city for longer to make a night of it, and therefore keeping Melbourne on top when it comes to quality and variety of retail and hospitality experiences compared to other cities in Australia.

The City of Melbourne along with the State Government have this week released the new Melbourne Retail and Hospitality Strategy 2013-2017 which demonstrates the desire from both levels of government to maintain, guide and expand Melbourne's retail and hospitality offerings for locals and visitors alike.  According to the media release on the City of Melbourne website, Newly released data in the strategy shows the retail and hospitality sectors contribute $8.7 billion, or ten per cent, of the city of Melbourne's $86 billion-plus economy each year. 

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said that there has been a 51 per cent increase in the number of retail and hospitality outlets with more than 5,100 outlets now located within the municipality which employee over 60,000 people, an increase of 46 per cent over the last decade. 

Key features of the new strategy include:

  • Encouragement of collaboration and innovation and improved government business support;
  • Finding new ways to encourage people to the city and enhancing the customer experience;
  • Ensuring the city's offering remains diverse and authentic, and;
  • Strengthen Melbourne's sustainability credentials.

The introduction of the new strategy works well with the 24 Hour City policy that the City of Melbourne implemented back in April 2010 as it encourages the activation of the city's streets around the clock.  Recent data also shows that the number of people visiting the city after 6pm has increased by 20 per cent on weekdays and by 40 per cent on weekends, and the night time economy is growing much faster than the wider economy.  Both levels of government should be commended on putting plans in place to capitalise on this growing trend, particularly when we consider that the City of Melbourne's population is increasing around 5 per cent per year at the current rate.

This brings me to my next point and a development topic that Urban Melbourne aims to promote avidly.  

According to Urban Melbourne's project database, there are currently 79 residential apartment projects within the City of Melbourne's LGA that are either in the planning assessment, approved, registrations and sales or under construction phase of development.  Over the next decade, even if 50 per cent of these projects are completed, the demand for amenity and services by a demographic of residents hungry for a compact lifestyle will generate vast economic opportunities for retailers and beyond. Therefore nurturing and guiding Melbourne's retailer offerings through policies such as the above is vital to bringing Melbourne's lifestyle offerings to the top of international standards and expectations.

The main challenge facing retailers is to remain innovative and creative by providing fresh ideas and options whilst for government, the challenge most certainly lies in creating a business environment with efficient support systems and introducing more "all-night" events similar to White Night to further enhance the night time economy.  At the end of the day, it can only be a good thing for retailers to have a greater window to peddle their wares and to provide an exciting customer experience, which in turn creates a more vibrant, exciting and international city that entices more people to migrate, live and play closer to Melbourne's heart.

Now about making White Night a weekly event over summer...

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