(7.15pm 15 May 2012, Barnet Long Room, Customs House)
Thank you, Andrea, [Beattie, MC] and hello, everyone. I would like firstly to acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the traditional custodians of our land, and to pay my respects to their Elders. I also acknowledge the 200 nationalities who make up our city.
I hope you are finding this evening's forum stimulating and informative. I don't know if Andrea told you but this is the first of two that we'll hold this year, following the success of last year's forum. The second will be held later in the year and you'll be invited in good time so that you all have the opportunity to attend.
A thriving retail sector is a vital element in the mix that Sydney, as a global city, must be able to offer, and it makes an important contribution to creating places that are attractive to residents, workers and tourists.
So we recognise your importance - as employers, as providers of goods and services, and as magnets drawing people into the City.
Equally, we recognise that the lingering effects of the global financial crisis, a shift to on-line buying and a reduction in consumer confidence has led to a decline in retail spending.
In 2010, we formed our Retail Advisory Panel to advise us on how we could best support retailers and position Sydney as Australia's premier shopping destination.
Their advice tells us that industry-led events, supported by government, draw increased numbers to important shopping precincts.
Cities around the world are increasingly aware of the value of events to showcase the city and to attract people.
Sydney is no exception, and we have an outstanding calendar of annual events that are nationally - and even internationally - recognised.
For the last two years, the City - apart from its own roster of events - has supported two signature fashion events - Mercedes Benz Sydney Fashion Festival, and Vogue Fashion Night Out.
This year, we have the opportunity to link both these events with History Week NSW, running in September which for 2012 has the theme of Threads, looking at the history of fashion and the rag trade in Sydney.
At last night's Council meeting, we committed to a three-year sponsorship agreement with both the Vogue and the Mercedes-Benz organisers. We also agreed to sponsor History Week and to link these three events together with an umbrella marketing campaign which really promotes the idea that "Sydney is Fashion" during August and September.
This is a significant financial contribution we're making and we're doing it to support fashion retailers and encourage spending in a non-sale period.
We want to see the city buzzing with fabulous in-store experiences and activations that make CBD shopping - retail therapy in a real-life environment - as fun.
All of us who were at Vogue Fashion Night Out last year know what a fantastic event it was, how much people enjoyed it and what a buzz it brought to the city.
The Mercedes Benz Sydney Fashion Festival will expand this year and use our reactivated laneways and small bars for runway shows, launch parties, designer talks. The festival will also be partnering with bars and restaurants to offer unique, fashion-related experiences - think food and drinks created in collaboration between designers and chefs! And they'll be engaging with fashion schools to provide talks and workshops on the fashion industry and developing a career in fashion.
Vogue Fashion Night Out also plans to expand the event over the next three years to expand the number of stores participating and improving the in-store experience offered by retailers.
Another important season for retail is Christmas, and as you know we've been working on that for some time. For many retailers, it's the big event, often providing a much-needed boost to the bottom line.
We decorate the City and village streets with trees, banners and special lighting - with a spectacular lighting of Town Hall. Along with our carols and other activities, we make Christmas in the city a special experience.
We now have a Christmas website to cover events, shopping, dining and information on where to see decorations, shopping hours, and special deals - a one-stop shop that proved useful and popular.
Council has now agreed to engage a Creative Director for Christmas, to build on these efforts and to work with retailers, cultural and community organisations and Council to develop a unified Christmas program for Sydney.
The director's first task will be to develop a vision and scope for new decorative elements and our Retail Advisory Panel is working with us, and already providing ideas on how it can be achieved.
And we now have a panel assessing the tenders we have received.
So I feel confident that together, we can continue to be optimistic about the future of retail and that the experience of shopping in Sydney will be one that can't be had on-line!
So thank you for coming here this evening, thank you to all the speakers and I hope you'll be able to stay and join us for drinks.