Residents urged to buy local to save their shops

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By Naomi Newcombe

Colac residents are being urged to buy local, with Coronavirus causing a significant decline in the town’s retail sector.

The main street in Colac has seen more and more empty shop fronts in recent years with the increase in people choosing to shop online or outside of the community.

Just Lovely Lingerie and Giftware owner, Jenny Harty, has operated her business in Colac for 26 years, said that during that time “countless” stores have come and gone around her, with hers being the “only original store”.

“It’s about going the extra mile and making an effort,” Ms Harty said. She believes this is the reason her business has survived.  

“There’s an element of people that do a lot of online shopping and there’s always going to be people that will do some shopping out of town,” she said.

To comply with the current COVID-19 restrictions throughout Australia, local businesses have had to adapt their operations to include contactless delivery, hand sanitiser stations, restricting the number of people in stores and other social distancing measures.

The types of businesses that have been hit the hardest by the Coronavirus include those in the accommodation, hospitality, construction and retail sectors.

Colac Otway Shire Deputy Mayor, Joe McCracken, said it was a “hit and miss” with the businesses that have been impacted by the Coronavirus, with some adapting and others having to close completely.

Mr McCracken said the council was progressing on a package that would help the businesses in Colac that were facing difficult times due to the pandemic.

This package would complement the council’s Economic Development Strategy, which aims to help industries within the community and attempt to reduce the number of stores closing in town.

Residents of the shire can help in rebuilding the economy by continuing to shop within the town, especially during this time.

“Buy local”, Mr McCracken said. “This has always been the message for people in Colac”.

Ms Harty said she never thought she would have to close her business, but the first announcement regarding coronavirus was the “most unnerving” she had ever felt for her business.

“It’s very interesting times and I never would have thought that I would have this experience after all the years in business” she said.

Currently there has only been one recorded case of the virus in the Colac Otway Shire.

This story was produced as part of a first year Journalism unit at Deakin University.

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