Is it time to lighten the wallet and boost our businesses?

ASK Ballarat retailers about Australia’s economic slump and their reactions are diverse.

Some say shoppers are bucking the January shopping drought and spending big in Ballarat this month – with an influx of visitors to the city leaving left many retailers joyous with the unexpected sounds of extra coins in their tills at the end of the day. 

But other traders claim they are feeling the pinch during what has traditionally been a trend of emptying out our wallets over Christmas and leaving retailers hurting throughout January.

It comes as peak retail industry body, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), this week said concerning unemployment figures released last week by ABS show the retail sector needed interest rates to come down urgently to address the economic slump.

ARA executive director Russell Zimmerman said when the Reserve Bank of Australia meets in February it would need to cut official rates to 2.5 per cent to get variable mortgage rates to a level of six per cent and address the economic doldrums and job crisis facing the Australian economy.

“On the three previous occasions since the Asian economic crisis, when the RBA has undertaken rate cuts we have seen the economy recovering a year into interest rate cuts commencing. This hasn’t happened this time and non-mining sectors continue to struggle with retailers bearing the brunt of that struggle,” he said.

Magpie’s Bowerbird Cottage owner Sandra Kelly said the past 12 months had been particularly tough.

She opened the antiques and collectables business opposite Buninyong Cemetery eight years ago and trade was great in the beginning.

But now, she said, people were not coming in the door like they used to.

Ms Kelly said in the past few week alone there had been two $2 days, and if things did not start to pick up soon, she would be forced to close the business she loved by the end of the year.

“If I get 10 people in a week I’d be clapping my hands,” she said.

“I’ve got antiques, china, glassware, furniture, antique jewellery, new jewellery ... I’ve got lots of really nice things. It’s just getting people in to realise what I’ve got.”

Meanwhile, other Ballarat retailers have suggested shoppers are spending more than ever this month. 

Commerce Ballarat executive officer Jodie Gillett said this year’s Christmas period had been more positive than previous years for many retailers in Ballarat.

“January is traditionally quiet with many people heading off to the beach, but with the many events on over the month we have people coming from elsewhere and now it is really starting to pay off,” she said.

“A few people did complain about the road closures but it is only a small price you pay for people to come into the city and spend money.

Ms Gillett said retailers who embraced staff development, social media and chose to get behind marketing tools leading up to events could really benefit most.

“It’s really about being proactive and not waiting for customers to come to you, those days are gone, it’s about being proactive with marketing strategies.”

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