LIEBIG Street trader Max Taylor has again challenged other operators to adopt year-round weekend trading which he believes can pull Warrnambool out of its retail doldrums.
“We could be the number-one weekend shopping centre between Geelong and Adelaide,” he said.
The Taylor family adopted weekend trading all-year-round a decade ago and is one of the few locally-owned businesses to stick by the practice, along with large national chains.
“The number of visits by Mount Gambier people and the volume of phone inquiries is amazing,” Mr Taylor said.
“Warrnambool just has to wake up to the untapped potential.
“Let’s be courageous.”
However, further south on the main street Denis Bunworth of Warrnambool Disposals is not so keen on the idea after finding it uneconomic in the quiet winter months.
“I’ve been operating here 31 years and we’ve tried weekend trading,” Mr Bunworth said.
“Max makes a good point, but to do it as an ongoing practice is not worth it when you average everything out.
“We do weekend trading in December, January and Easter when the volume of shoppers is around.
“If year-round trading is so good why do many shops in Gateway Plaza close early during winter?”
Mr Bunworth has called for the city council to offer some free parking for shoppers in the CBD. “That’s something we could promote to bring shoppers in,” he said.
However, Mr Taylor downplayed the parking fee issue and said internet shopping competition was the major reason for retail downturn.
“If there were no parking fees the bays would be taken up by workers, leaving little room for shoppers,” he said.
“Online shopping is the major threat to retail viability.
“Unfortunately, the CBD is not attractive because of the number of empty shops and landlords are still charging for rents they were asking before the global financial crisis. Rents do have to come down. The economy will pick up — my advice to traders is hang on.”
Mr Taylor sees long-term weekend trading as a key way to keep south-west residents from travelling to Geelong, Ballarat and Melbourne for shopping.
“If only half that number stayed and shopped in Warrnambool it would be on a winner,” he said.
“However, we can’t advertise ourselves as a weekend trading destination until more traders come on board.
“Friday night shopping has gone — it’s now Saturdays and Sundays.”