For 31 years (57 if you include its time as the Monaro Mall), the Canberra Centre has been somewhere to meet friends, grab a bite to eat, and take part in a bit of retail therapy. It was feared that shopping centres would be one of the first casualties of this pandemic, but the Canberra Centre has been thriving since coming out of forced shutdowns in the first half of the year.
Thankfully, the extent and duration of these closures have allowed the majority of businesses in the Centre to survive, and throughout the pandemic they actually managed to maintain a high occupancy rate with minimal closures.
Canberra Centre’s Marketing Manager, Ellie Daly, says that one of the biggest ongoing challenges has been adjusting to the decrease in the CBD workforce, and the impact this has on the centre’s weekday economy and trade, but that a lot of retail categories have managed to see some positive trends.
“People are investing in home improvement, DIY and personal care, with spending across services such as beauty and optometrists remaining strong. Fashion, particularly sports and athleisure wear have also been performing positively,” said Daly. “Overall sales remain resilient, considering the environment.”
“We have even had several new and exciting openings including Betty’s Burgers, Biang Biang and an upgraded Country Road.”
Back in March, the 20-or-so staff that make up the Canberra Centre team, including departments for Retail, Marketing, Admin and Operations, moved to a rotating roster so they could maintain their socially-distanced presence for essential duties. These staff work in a fast-paced and hands-on environment where it’s imperative to have people on the ground, especially to manage the changes of government restrictions and to ensure all hygiene and safety measures are being maintained and implemented to the highest standard.
“Since we’ve reintroduced events at Canberra Centre, we’ve also taken additional measures such as packaged catering, pre-bookings only and additional cleaning measures to prioritise the safety of our customers and staff,” said Daly.
“Despite these changes, we’ve never felt more connected to the local community. As part of our ‘A Little Thanks’ campaign, we’ve been working with a range of different volunteers, non-for-profits, community organisations and health care professionals to offer our support and show our thanks for the incredible work they do each day.”
Anyone who visited the Canberra Centre over the weekend just passed may have been lucky enough to meet Santa already, but for the rest of us, jolly ol’ Saint Nick will be available for family photos until Thursday 24 December.
This year you will have to book ahead online, and all photos will be taken a Covid-safe 1.5m away from the big man and his elves to ensure everyone stays healthy over the Christmas period. There was also kids’ bauble decorating workshops, letter writing to Santa, and live snow in-centre.
As well as these festive Chrissy events for kids, the Canberra Centre has a few more exciting plans in the works.
“We are again a partner of the DESIGN Canberra Festival and look forward to playing host to a range of exciting exhibits and artworks from established and emerging local talent. We will also host a pop-up Christmas bar in conjunction with several of our local wineries,” said Daly.
“During this time, we are looking to implement further measures to ensure the safety of our visitors over this time, including virtual queueing systems for key retailers and the introduction of dedicated social distancing ambassadors who will roam the centre in the lead up to Christmas.
We have many other exciting plans in the works for the second half of the financial year, which we look forward to sharing with you in the coming months.”
Given the opportunity to speak directly to the NCAA members out there, Ellie provided a hopeful message of support after the year we’ve all endured. “At Canberra Centre we really value the partnerships we have with our fellow attractions and institutions and now more than ever, it’s important that we remain connected, support each other and take learnings as we all go through this unprecedented journey together. We look forward to working with many of you as we move into what will hopefully be a much brighter 2021!”