In the early days of establishing their own marketing business, husband and wife duo, Circe and Stavros Zikou, were approached to provide services for a boutique suburban shopping centre. Not realising marketing a shopping centre was even a ‘thing’ at the time, never would they have thought that almost 20 years later, they would be coordinating three centres in Melbourne’s east.
From walking through the streets of Ivanhoe with Olivia Newton John, to seeing these communities band together during a pandemic, the Zikous’ share insight into knowing what’s best for your community, the gift card phenomenon and how to create a positive retail experience in a world that is continuously changing.
The centres of Ivanhoe and Heidelberg West within Banyule Council plus Boroondara’s Canterbury, each with their own distinct communities and offerings, comprise approximately 400 businesses.
In the heart of Ivanhoe you’ll find a shopping centre which when visiting, is like bumping into an old friend. The Traders Association here pride themselves on welcoming both locals and visitors alike as they “pop down to the shops” to collect the morning paper, pop into the deli or pick up some fresh veggies.
Next door in Heidelberg West, you’ll find Melbourne’s very first shopping mall. Built in 1956, the iconic Bell Street Mall retains its authenticity, inviting visitors to a one stop shop of food, clothing and various specialist stores including its delicious offering catering to the local Somali community.
Head a little further south across the freeway, and you’ll find the fashion strip of Maling Road, Canterbury. Considered one of the top five shopping destinations in Victoria with a mix of quality homewares, gifts, beauty, fashion, cafes, fresh food and eateries.
We asked Stavros and Circe what they love most about supporting these communities “We love that we can make a difference on a ground level.”
Making a difference is exactly what they have achieved with just one of their projects as co-founders of a community team taking part annually in the Olivia Newton John Cancer and Wellness Walk. They described one of the best moments across the past years as a “great feeling having Olivia Newton John sing on Upper Heidelberg Rd” and leading the community walk through the Ivanhoe streets.
Being surrounded by people who are passionate about what they do and the diverse nature of their role ensures that no two days are the same.
“We love that we get to be creative.”
So how do you be creative during a pandemic? By providing direct marketing advice to their traders and communities, the couple have also seen beneficial outcomes for those that have not been able to trade due to the current restrictions, giving rise to a whole new demographic of online business.
“We kept our traders up to date on what assistance was available to them and ran some high-level campaigns. We were amazed at how resilient our traders were and how many of them changed their business model to ensure they could keep on trading.”
The strength of community has been poignant in these most recent times, with the shift to supporting local traders by encouraging the purchase of gift cards. “Our gift cards have measurable results and we have been able to utilise them in many ways to promote our centres.”
The Zikou’s draw from their experience being born into successful family businesses teamed with postgraduate degrees in Marketing, gives their community confidence in their shared knowledge and insight into assisting with effective promotional strategies by providing simple solutions.
“It really depends on what you were trying to achieve. Want more dollars in your centre? Then the gift card program and associated promotions work best. Building a database? Run a competition to gain email addresses. However, as a start, every good centre should have an up to date and responsive website, active socials, a database of email addresses and a progressive Committee and Coordinator.”
Final words of wisdom, “Make sure that you and your Committee are on the same page. This is the most important point as it all stems from that relationship. Keep it simple until you understand your centre, traders and demographic”.
In the fast and furious world we all live in, as Circe and Stavros point out, always consider the positive approach to embracing change, consider a contingency and you’ll be ahead of the game.