With a focus on developing valuable relationships, Samantha Bartlett shares how this approach has contributed to the success of Croydon Main Street.
As manager of the Croydon Main Street Traders Association (CMSTA), Ms Bartlett has learned the importance of forging connections with local traders and broader community groups to achieve buy-in that supports the precinct and the marketing campaigns it runs.
Here, Ms Bartlett shares insights into the operation of the CMSTA, how the association works, and the marketing and community building activities that have worked to successfully operate and promote the precinct.
Describe how your levied association works
The CMSTA represents the retail and business operators within the Croydon Main Street precinct, which includes Main St, Hewish Rd, Mt Dandenong Rd, Centreway Arcade, Thomas Brew Lane and Lacey St.
The precinct incorporates about 180 businesses, with a mix of traders across general retail, hospitality, and professional service-based businesses.
The CMSTA operates under a centre-coordinated marketing and business development program funded by a special rate, to which all properties in the centre contribute.
The Special Rate and Charge Scheme (SRCS) is an agreement between the Maroondah City Council and the Croydon Main Street Traders Association (CMSTA) to raise funds to achieve key goals of the association, including marketing, promotions, and events.
The SRCS is reviewed and renewed every five years. As part of the renewal process, the CMSTA must present a survey to the council, providing written support from at least 50 per cent of the local businesses.
All businesses within the Croydon Main Street precinct have enjoyed the benefits of the scheme since the early 1990s, which have contributed to Croydon’s transformation into a vibrant and thriving neighbourhood.
The special rate is calculated on a tiered system:
- Primary beneficiary contributor: a special charge of $487.65 per annum per primary beneficiary contributor with ground floor frontages to Main St (unless otherwise stated)
- Secondary beneficiary contributor: a special charge of $243.83 per annum for all secondary beneficiaries, defined as ground floor properties without frontages to Main St and those located on Mt Dandenong Rd, Thomas Brew Lane, Hewish Rd, San Carlos Walk, Hewmart Arcade, Lacey St and Centreway Arcade, and properties located between and including 12 to 44 – 48 Main St.
- Tertiary beneficiary contributor: a special charge of $121.91 per annum for all third-tier beneficiaries, defined as all first-floor properties.
A further rate per contributor is also charged, based on .000541987 cents in the dollar of the CIV of the rated property.
What is the tenancy mix of traders and the demographics of Croydon shoppers?
With about 180 businesses located within the levied area, the Croydon Main Street precinct comprises a diverse retail and business mix.
We have a lot of food businesses (currently accounts for almost 20 per cent of all businesses), as well as general retail, several real estate agents, and hairdressers.
The tenancy mix is currently seeing a shift towards more professional service-based businesses in the health and wellness sector, including medical practices, optometrists and audiologists, psychology services, massage clinics, and Pilates studios.
In terms of the demographics of average shoppers in Croydon Main Street, it has typically been an elderly customer, of retirement age.
But more recently, we have noticed a fairly rapid shift towards middle-aged people and young families who are moving into the area. With five primary schools in the Croydon area, it’s not entirely surprising to notice this trend of young families shopping in the precinct.
There are also more apartment buildings currently being built in the area, so I expect we’ll continue to see this shift towards a growing younger demographic, with young couples and young singles being the next emerging demographic.
What is the CMSTA’s marketing budget? Do you receive additional income?
The CMSTA has an annual levy of $70,000. It’s a small budget, as we have quite a small precinct, and we access additional income via grants.
In 2020, we received a grant of $50,000 as part of the Victorian Government’s Grants to Business Chambers and Trader Groups. This was significant additional funding for our precinct, so we managed to use it to fund some big projects. This included getting a new website built, refreshing our social media presence, and running a ‘shop and buy local’ program which comprised significant advertising, creating printed collateral, hosting activations, and running giveaway competitions. We also ran a workshop and training for traders, and put on a music event.
Additionally, we regularly apply for smaller grants to fund arts and cultural projects which allows us to revitalise the precinct. We are in the process of setting up an arts trail where we’ll collaborate with local artists to showcase their talent while creating an attractive feature for the precinct. We also recently did a project involving local children making bunting to decorate the precinct, which has not only beautified the precinct but also had the added bonus of deterring graffiti.
Outline the types of marketing activities you run for CMSTA
In an ordinary year, without COVID-19 restrictions, our biggest event to promote the precinct is our Father’s Day Classic Car Show. It began in 2015 and has been one of the most popular events in our annual calendar. As the name suggests, there are a range of classic cars on show, and this is complemented by a pie eating competition, reptile petting zoo, face painting, children’s craft workshops, and dance performances. In 2019, a rock ‘n’ roll live band and live superheroes were a great addition to the program, which attracted more than 1,500 visitors.
In the past we have also put on the Christmas Pet Parade, where people bring their dogs to the precinct dressed in Christmas costumes for a fun parade. We’ve also had an active school holidays program, which often draws in 100 – 300 children per event and includes pony rides, LEGO workshops, and a kids disco.
For Christmas we have held a Christmas shop window decorating competition for our traders. Traders decorate their windows and the public votes for their favourite window for a chance to win great prizes. Over the month of December, we run ‘photos with Santa’ outside Croydon Camera House, which gives our community an affordable way to get quality family photos with Santa. This activity is complemented by live music from a local brass band and carols from school choirs to add to the festive atmosphere. We also managed to get our local Men’s Shed on board this year to make a big Santa’s chair, so that has been a nice way to collaborate with another community group.
With the advent of the internet and digital communications, ITA’s marketing efforts have naturally shifted to incorporate more of a focus on digital activities over the past decade. Social media is big component for us now and is an important way for us to communicate directly with customers who have questions about our stores.
How does ITA work with council and local community groups?
In representing the CMSTA, we work very closely with Maroondah City Council to stay up to date on council-led initiatives and any cross-promotional opportunities for local businesses. It’s important that our activities are aligned and work to compliment each other so we can get the best outcomes for our precinct.
The CMSTA also collaborates with and supports local community groups. For example, we have been working closely with Croydon Football Club, where we have been invited to attend their weekly training and dinner events and get to speak to the football club community about Croydon Main Street. We update them on any news or current promotions taking place in the precinct, as well as any specials on offer at specific stores that may be of interest to them.
To ensure the partnership is mutually beneficial, we support the football club with a sponsorship from Croydon Main Street. We have recently asked them to join us on Main Street with a fundraising barbecue that Collins Booksellers was hosting in the precinct, and we are also looking at other ways we can cross-collaborate.
As Croydon is such a community-focused area, these types of partnerships are important for us to not only continue driving community connection but also to create meaningful relationships that can be leveraged into the future.
What is something you do differently to other centre managers?
I put a lot of my time and focus into building relationships with our local traders and community groups to forge valuable partnerships that are mutually beneficial. I meet with traders regularly and get to know them well, and I’m often attending local community events to tap into broader groups.
I’m very much a people person so I put that to use to create buy-in from our community. I’m proud to say that I know our community well, and I’ve created trust as a result. This has been useful in supporting our marketing efforts because when we do run a campaign or event, many traders and members of the public get involved to support us.
I also work very closely with Maroondah City Council to ensure the success of CMSTA – I have fortnightly catch ups with them, and I’m on a lot of their committees. I’m part of the precinct plan and the community safety plans, and other committees that we collaborate on. This ensures that our activities are closely aligned with what council is doing and that there is good cross-over.
Trade secrets: What’s one thing that makes CMSTA marketing campaigns successful?
I know it might sound like an obvious point, but it is so important to have a comprehensive and updated database. By this, I mean a database of all your traders, community groups and connections, and well organised information for events, funding applications, and other communications.
When I took on the role of centre manager at CMSTA, I spent a lot of time cleansing and updating our databases and now that it is in a good place, it makes my job as a centre manager so much easier – my marketing campaigns run smoother, and I’m able to easily leverage existing relationships in the community. So, I’ve really come to understand the importance of not only having a database but also maintaining it to keep it up to date.