When you think of a specific retail locale, what comes to mind, what is its identity?
While that issue has always mattered to some degree, it matters much more today with the endless possibilities of internet shopping competing for customer attention. An establishment or a shopping center needs to stay current and relevant, and what’s happening now in the retail industry is a shift to shopping as an experience, something that gives the customer something more in the way of positive feedback than an online session can offer. That’s the secret sauce that engages customers and keeps them coming back.
Kings’ Shops, the original shopping center at the Waikoloa Resort, addressed these issues over the past two years as the managers set out to redefine and reposition their identity as a shopping destination. I sat down recently with Lynn Rostau, Kings’ Shops general manager, to discuss where the center has been and where it is going, and there are some exciting new things coming.
Kings’ Shops has over 70,000 square feet of retail/restaurant/office space and has been open for business for 27 years. It was the first free-standing retail center on the grounds of the Waikoloa Resort and, in fact, on the entire Kohala Coast. Part of Kings Shops’ re-imagining has to do with re-establishing the identity it was founded upon back then.
“I went back into the old files,” Rostau said, “and from the beginning of the center there was a lot of energy expended in trying to create an authentic venue that represented the Big Island as a unique and historic locale. You can see this even in the name of the center and the original artwork, which is oriented to the alii, the kings, and in our location adjacent to the Kings’ Trail and it’s petroglyph field.”
Kings’ Shops wanted to refresh that identity and reached out to the Bishop Museum for assistance in doing that. In partnership with the museum, the center wanted to highlight six cultural and geographic themes: Maunakea, volcanoes, petroglyphs, hula, alii, and canoes. The museum created displays weaving those themes into the surroundings, and interpretive installations emphasizing them are in the process of being installed.
The whole idea was to create a place where the customer could be immersed in a more authentic cultural experience. To that end the center is also working with local craft practitioners, entertainers and the Cultural Center of Hamakua on offering demonstrations in things like lei making, hula, ukulele, slack key guitar and other Hawaiian music and on talk story events.
The center is also hosting an increasing number of community events, including a Community Health Fair and a cultural festival in October. A marquee event is Fashion for the Fight, a fashion show in which all the models are cancer survivors or caretakers from North Hawaii Community Hospital, which will be held in cooperation with the hospital in December.
Until recently, Kings’ Shops’ establishments focused on luxury retail goods, higher-end products catering to a visitor market. There are still luxury shops at the center, but there was a conscious decision made by management in the past several years to be “less exclusionary, and blur the lines a little bit,” Rostau said.
“We want to be a place where you can both buy a beautiful ring but also get a shave ice,” she said.
Meeting this goal means being open to providing a venue for goods and services attractive both to visitors and to local residents.
Part of the impetus for that change has been changing demographics in the area around the center, according to Rostau.
“There is a growing timeshare presence, so there are lots of part-time residents, and we feel an obligation to provide a wider array of services for those residents and for permanent residents as well,” she said. “We want to broaden our outreach and our customer base and become more community friendly. These are repeat customers looking to revisit their favorite places, so we want to create more variety for them to choose from.”
To that end, opening soon at Kings’ Shops will be Island Vintage Coffee, Original Big Island Shave Ice, Foster’s Kitchen, Kings’ Shops Lakeside Putting Course (the state’s first PGA recognized putting course), and Hula Kai surf rental shop. “I think of us a special little oasis,” says Lynn. “but we’re looking to be a place where any customer can find something they want.”
So, things have changed a lot in 27 years and Kings’ Shops is staying current with those changes but also being proactive in facilitating them.
As Rostau says, “We live in a wonderful place but sometimes we lose sight of that. Our goal is to reflect and deepen the interest visitors and locals have in understanding this place in which we live.”
Dennis Boyd is the director of the West Hawaii Small Business Development Center, which is funded in part with the U.S. Small Business Administration and the University of Hawaii at Hilo.