Woolgoolga small businesses are fearful of what the future may hold.
Woolgoolga small businesses are fearful of what the future may hold.

Retailers battle supermarket

WOOLGOOLGA business operators fearful of what impact a Coles supermarket might have on their livelihoods need look no further south than Macksville to see what the future could hold.

Just one month after the opening of the supermarket giant in their town, a string of Macksville businesses are seriously tightening their belts – and some are considering shutting up shop altogether.

Norco distributors Rowena and Adam Davis know first-hand the extent of the impact of the chain’s arrival in Macksville.

“We are not a major supplier to Woolies because they get so much of their dairy product from Sydney and Victoria but our deliveries to the town’s two supermarkets have really dropped off,” Mrs Davis said.

“We used to drop two or three pallets to Foodworks on Monday. This week we didn’t deliver anything.

“Our weekly profit is down by more than 30 per cent and we’re now being forced to look at reducing deliveries or cutting our staff’s hours because even though our income is down our expenses have stayed the same.”

Nikki Laird from Laird’s Friendly Grocers said her business turnover was down by at least 20 per cent.

“As a small supermarket we have always been focused on being competitive and offering great service but we’ve still taken a big hit,” Nikki said.

“I have a six-month-old baby so life is very hectic for my husband and me. We’re doing much more work in the business and I’ve had to cut the shifts of my nine staff to stay afloat.

“Our weekend trade when local business houses and banks are closed has been particularly affected. But what upsets me most is that Woolies doesn’t support local suppliers or growers.

“They just hurt the little people and that is just not fair.”

Dangerous Dan’s Butchery has so far withstood the Woolies onslaught.

But Karen and Peter Wharton attribute a slump in their Easter holiday trade to the supermarket’s highway exposure for tourists.

“People who choose to buy from butchers are particularly loyal but our concern is what will happen when the specialty shops in the supermarket complex are let,” Mrs Wharton said.

“At the moment, the Woolies staff have to come to town for coffee and lunch, but if a cafe or food outlet goes in at the complex I expect there will be a real impact on many town centre retailers, particularly the sandwich bars and coffee shops.” The president of the Macksville Chamber of Commerce, Mike Moran, said he was aware of some business operators now considering their futures.

“I do expect some people will shut up shop,” Mr Moran said.

“The next month will be crucial.”

Mr Moran is also a Nambucca Shire Councillor but due to a conflict of interest, he was one of four councillors unable to vote on the Woolworths development application.

“In the end we didn’t have much say anyway. Woolworths is such a big employer in New South Wales that the company would have just gone over our heads to the Planning Minister if we had repeatedly said no to their proposal. In the end it was then Planning Minister and now Premier Kristina Keneally who gave them the green light.”

As to the outlook for Woolgoolga businesses, Rowena Adams said they are in for a bumpy ride if Coles proceeds with its plans to open a store there.

“The big supermarkets don’t care about the little people or the locals. They only look at the bottom line, so I feel very sorry for people trying to make a living in Woolgoolga if they end up having to compete with a Coles outlet,” Ms Adams said.

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