(Lower Town Hall)
Good evening, everyone, and welcome to Town Hall. I'd like firstly to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of this land, and I pay my respects to the Elders, both past and present.
I'm pleased you could be here for this forum - and hopefully we'll see you again at our second retail forum in September.
A thriving retail sector in the CBD and City villages is a vital part of our economy. At last count, it employed over 14 per cent of our workforce, accounted for 37 per cent of all businesses, and occupied 13 per cent of all floor space across the LGA.
It's still the largest retail sector in Australia and although many of you have gone through difficult times there are opportunities with our continued influx of tourists - four million in the last year - and some of the great events in the city and the refurbishment of such important centres as the QVB and more recently, Westfield.
A diverse and interesting retail sector also helps make our City a more attractive place to live, visit and work and it's a priority sector for Council and for our Economic Development and Strategy team.
Last November, we formed our Retail Advisory Panel, bringing together the industry, the State Government and the City to provide strategic advice, to work together on issues and to identify opportunities for retailing to capitalise on major events and tourism campaigns.
The Panel represents a diverse group - department stores, shopping centres, independent retailers, property, hospital, transport, tourism and leisure among them.
And since Christmas is obviously such an important time for retailers, the Panel has formed a Christmas Sub-Committee which is hard at work to promote the City and villages as prime destinations for Christmas shopping and other festive activities.
Information will be logged on the City's Christmas website, and we're encouraging retailers and event producers to keep this up-to-date on a one-stop-shop website.
The City has appointed a full-time Christmas co-ordinator to work with retailers to help pull all this together and the Christmas Sub-Committee has also been exploring some exciting new events to benefit retailers.
We'll keep you informed about these through our newsletters and our September retail forum.
Tonight, we want to outline some of the major events and promotions that can provide opportunities for retailers and we'll have presentations from Events NSW, Sydney Festival, Sydney Film Festival, Sydney Fashion Festival, Business Events Sydney and Tourism NSW.
Our first presentation will be from the organisers of Vogue Fashion Night Out, an international event which was a huge success when Sydney joined in for the first time last year.
Other speakers tonight will include Gail Connolly, executive manager, Transforming Sydney, who will outline the City's plans for George Street.
Suzie Matthews, Manager of Late Night Economy, is also here to answer any questions you may have for her. We are holding a series of community forums, and separate stakeholder forums and roundtables with business and cultural groups to help us prepare a strategic plan to guide the future development of Sydney's Late Night Economy.
Finally, we want to engage more and communicate better with the retail community, passing on information about events and projects, as well as sharing our research.
So please sign on for our Talking Shop Newsletter, either here tonight or via our website.
We also have a team of people ready to help you and I'd just ask two of our key people to stand up as I introduce, and they are Andrea Beattie, Senior Strategy Advisor in our Economic Development team, and Grace Bowe, Retail Co-ordinator who works with the Retail Advisory Panel and is also available to help with any retail-related inquiries you might have.
And now, once again thank you for coming here and I'll hand over to the first speaker.