Katherine retailers struggle to compete with online market

FACEBOOK PAGES: Shoppers Stop manager Shay Bowmaker said businesses should try and utilize social media more.

FACEBOOK PAGES: Shoppers Stop manager Shay Bowmaker said businesses should try and utilize social media more.

Katherine retailers are feeling the pinch from a boom in online shopping.

This week Katherine Times spoke to local retailers to find out why so many stores has closed in the main street.

Temporary Beat Locations, sky rocketing rent and a bump in council rates are some of the catalysts which have driven business down, store owners said.

As online shopping takes off, businesses in Katherine have been left to ponder their future.

“Comparing what is has been like in the last 10 years, businesses have been going down, down, down,” Visions Hair Design owner Dannii David said.

“Online shopping is a big thing these days.”

The Sweetest Things owner Lana Read said foot traffic in the main street has decreased, with more locals shopping from the comfort of their own home.

“Online shopping is a killer for 95 per cent of businesses in town I think,” Ms Read said.

“People shop online a lot more, that doesn’t really affect my business because you can’t buy a cake online.”

HARD BATTLE: Fe's Variety owner Fe Fahey said it was hard to compete with the online market.

HARD BATTLE: Fe’s Variety owner Fe Fahey said it was hard to compete with the online market.

Fe’s Variety owner Fe Fahey said it was hard to compete with the online market.

“People are buying online it is hard for small businesses and rent is also very high,” Ms Fahey said.

A website is not the only option rural businesses have to reach customers, social media sites like Facebook can be very useful too.

“We need more advertising in town to show there are shops here, stores could do more advertising on Facebook I think,” Shoppers Stop manager Shay Bowmaker said.

“It is sad to see shops that have been here for ages shut down.

“We try to support shop local but it is so expensive, people are going online because it is too dear in town,” she said.

Katherine Chamber of Commerce chairman Kevin Grey said a reason for business decline in town is the “impact of internet purchasing and larger scale vendors penetrating smaller markets”.

“Commoditisation of product margins on most products is small but expectation on service feels like it increasing, apart from being polite and selling it there is not much more we can do.

“When you put all those things together the feasibility of running a small business is not there,” he said.

“The whole cost base is rising and general margins on products are falling in pretty much every product space, but with good customer service you can stay alive in a declining market for longer.

“We have to follow trends, what are the new products and how do people want to spend their money,” Mr Grey said.

“The problem is not Katherine unique, it has just caught up to us in the last 12 months.

“If businesses do not cooperate with each other we will all fall foul to the same outcome.”

[“Source-katherinetimes”]