SHOP LOCAL: Big W Emerald supports a large region, with customers travelling from as far as Alpha.
SHOP LOCAL: Big W Emerald supports a large region, with customers travelling from as far as Alpha. Taylor Battersby

We need growth not closures

AS WOOLWORTHS announces it is set to close 30 Big W stores nationally during the next three years, the Central Highlands Development Corporation (CHDC) is urging locals to support their retail shopping outlets and local businesses.

In a statement, Woolworths said it would also close two distribution centres but has not named which stores would close, although there has been speculation during the past few weeks that regional stores could be affected.

"We understand the announcement, without confirmation of specific stores, will create some uncertainty for our teams and the communities in which we operate, particularly in regional areas,” the statement said.

"We want to emphasise this review has never been focused solely on our regional stores but our entire network.

"Details of store closure locations will not be released due to ongoing discussions with landlords. In the interim, all Big W stores will continue to trade as normal.”

The announcement came after a review of 183 Big W stores across Australia amid losses at the budget department store chain due to tough competition in the retail industry.

CHDC general manager Sandra Hobbs said Big W Emerald not only provided a local shopping experience, but also attracted people to shop in other retail stores within the Central Highlands Marketplace.

She said if the store was to close and people left to access a Big W elsewhere, then that would have a negative impact on the whole retail district.

Ms Hobbs said it was important to continue to support local businesses in person, rather than use online shopping as an alternative.

"It's really important that we are supporting our local business to ensure they continue to be available,” she said

"Our local and regional business are the backbone of our community.

"It's very easy for people to shop online to the detriment of what will be here in the future.”

It was also crucial, she said, that businesses continually reviewed the services they provided.

"People are looking for a positive experience - it's a two-way street and it's important for us to support them, but it's important they review their business plans.”

Ms Hobbs said that when people were considering a move to the region, they would assess what was on offer to meet their needs, including the retail

options.

"We've got some amazing businesses in the Central Highlands that do provide that shopping experience and service experience, and we know that business confidence is growing,” she said.

"The indications from business owners is there has been a strengthening in their business turnover in the region.

"We've certainly had indications on economic growth across industry sectors.

"For this region we don't want to see any businesses closing down - we want to see business growth.

"We're keen to attract business to the region, not see it disappear.”

Ms Hobbs said large retail stores such as Big W were also significant employers and provided jobs for many locals.

Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci said the goal of the closures was to help boost the profitability of remaining Big W stores.

Big W has 18,000 staff across Australia, Hong Kong and Bangladesh, and the stores are to operate as normal until closures are announced.


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