WARRAGUL Business Group president Dave Cann says local businesses can look forward to improvements in the local economy this financial year, but only if they work for them.
This article was first published in the 15 August 2014 edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.
“It’s safe to say that pretty much in all cases it’s been a challenging, not just last 12 months but maybe last 24 or even 30 months, for most businesses sectors,” Mr Cann told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.
“However there are signs of life.
It’s still pretty tough, but certainly I personally feel that we’ve bottomed out and we’re on the other side.”
“It’ll be a slow recovery, but I think over the next 12 to 18 months we’ll start to see some good signs.”
Mr Cann said many indicators in the national economy were good signs for Baw Baw’s retailers.
“We’re starting to see retail figures pick up, business confidence is back, start ups are at some of the highest levels and there’s growth back in the construction sector and housing sector too, which is encouraging,” he said.
“While it has been challenging, certainly it appears the worst should be behind us and we should be improving into better times over the next 12 months.”
“Personally I’m bullish about the next 12 months, but it’s not going to be the case for every sector, it’s not going to be the case for every business.
“It’s still going a bit patchy and it’s still going to require a lot of tough work but I think businesses who put that in will start to see some rewards, I would hope.”
Mr Cann said while things were looking up there were no sectors of the local economy that were performing particularly better than others.
“I don’t think any sector is roaring at this stage,” Mr Cann said.
“There are certain sectors that are associated with technology, some of the housing sectors are starting to show growth again and certain sectors in retail and even hospitality are showing decent figures, but you couldn’t say any one sector is roaring ahead. It’s been tough.
Beyond positive national retail figures there have been a number of changes locally which have contributed to Mr Cann’s more positive outlook, but he said whether the cause of the decline was from a poor economy, online competition or another contributor was unclear.
“I don’t think that there’s one factor,” Mr Cann said.
“I think that for most businesses… the goal posts have changed in terms of how consumers look at the way they are spending their money, the way businesses are spending their money, and certainly you have generally less money being spent in the economy.
“But you also have a spreading out of the sources. Where traditionally there might have been [multiple] businesses within a town that supplied a certain service, now in most cases there’s only one of those businesses left, but you have a significant input from out of the area and also from online services.
“You’re no longer competing against a neighbouring town or neighbouring business as such, you have a broader base that you have to compete against, and you have to be competitive not just in pricing but also in service.”
Asked if opening hours were changing to encourage commuters to shop locally Mr Cann said retailers were coming to terms with changing demographics.
“I think there is a general movement, particularly within Warragul, about the realisation that the demographics of our clientèle base are changing, so consequently we need to be progressing,” he said.
“You’ve seen more businesses opening on Sundays, more businesses opening later on Saturdays, and looking at weekdays too, so the old concept of opening your doors at nine and closing them at five is certainly gone.
“A significant proportion of working people who live within Baw Baw are commuting, …so as business owners you need to be prepared to service those people, so that’s always a challenge within any business.
“Nine to five is long gone, along with a lot of other goal posts in many other businesses.”
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