Closures are sign of economic times

Sew N So's Wendy Saxton and her beloved "Billy the Bear". Picture: DAVID HALL

Sew N So's Wendy Saxton and her beloved "Billy the Bear". Picture: DAVID HALL

THE impending closure of several businesses in Kiama isn't cause for alarm, but is a reflection of the current overall retail market, the Kiama and District Chamber of Commerce says.

Chamber president Deidre Hindmarsh also said that Kiama shops had to ensure they didn't solely focus on the tourist dollar during peak periods to survive.

"Empty shops in Kiama don't stay empty for very long," she said.

"It's not just a Kiama thing; small businesses everywhere are doing it tough. It's a global thing that small businesses are competing with online business and large shopping centres.

"Wollongong has quite a few vacant shops, and Stockland Shellharbour has three or four shops closing there."

The Beach and Bush Gallery and Cafe recently closed after more than 10 years in business in Kiama.

Despite having regular customers, owner Cheryl Barnes cited reasons such as the tourism dollar becoming less lucrative, the impact of Stockland Shellharbour and high rent levels.

She said she believed all Kiama businesses were struggling.

"Over Christmas was very quiet, my worst Christmas in ten-and-a-half years," she said.

"Since February it's been a really steady decline, and with rent the way it was, it wasn't worth working for nothing.

"It's purely a financial decision . . . I'm sad to be gone.

"My lease is up at the end of June and I had an option, but couldn't get a satisfactory outcome with my lease.

"I think it has to get worse before it improves . . . I think it will get worse when the bypasses are up and running.

"There's a lot of lovely beaches down the coast, and not a lot of things to do [in Kiama]."

Sew N So Haberdashery & Gifts will also be closing at the end of the financial year.

Owner Wendy Saxton will retire after eight-and-a-half years there, citing inconsistent trade, while thanking her loyal customers.

"A lot of shops are closing down," she said.

"This has been a haberdashery, fabric or wool shop for 48-and-a-half years."

Ocean Storm Fishing Tackle will also soon close, possibly as early as this week, after 13 years at Kiama.

Owner Ben Czulowski said they were on a lease until September.

"Our senior staff member left, who was managing it," he said.

"Our focus is on [our] Warilla [store], where we own the building.

"There's no-one really to manage it . . . with the rent and management fees, it just wasn't economical.

"[Business in Kiama] is a little more tourist-oriented.

"You're reliant on a good tourist season and weather.

"Weather isn't such a factor in Warilla . . . having Lake Illawarra there makes it pretty consistent."

The former Toyworld site on Terralong Street, recently home to a gift shop, will soon become a gelato and coffee business.

Mrs Hindmarsh said this was the quiet time of the year for many businesses, but most were able to weather the storm.

She said there were many reasons for the closures, particularly of the speciality shops.

"It's probably just an economic thing. Just tastes are changing, technology is changing . . . [for example] videos are not as popular as they once were. As everyone in Kiama will tell you, we can't depend on tourists to survive - 80 per cent of customers are locals."

Kiama residents wishing to peruse new movie releases within the familiar surroundings of a video shop will also have to travel further afield, with the closure of the Civic Video store.

This follows the closure of Video Ezy's Kiama franchise in November 2012.

Civic Video Kiama owner Donna Simcock said they opened the Shoalhaven Street shop two years ago. She said it was an unfortunate decision.

"Our lease is about due, and we have three other Civic stores," she said.

"It's the ideal business for owner/operators, not for under management.

"We also had to make a decision on the NBN as well, which would cost a lot to get connected."

Mrs Simcock said though business had been reasonable, it was a financial decision. She said the Kiama store's staff would be moved to their other stores.

Although factors such as downloads, piracy and overall retail downturn have resulted in some predicting the death knell for large video stores in favour of small stores and vending machines, Mrs Simcock said believed large shops remained important.

Mrs Hindmarsh highlighted recent positives, such as the expansion of Kiama's Mind Body Spirit Centre and Always Flowers, as well as Glen Fulton Motors in Collins Street recently starting to sell petrol.

As for how the closure of some niche or specialty shops would affect the mix of businesses in Kiama, Mrs Hindmarsh said that was dependent on demand.

"Many cafes in Kiama are family businesses, working to make a living and support their families," she said. "You could say there are too many cafes, but if they're not getting the customers, they may close."

Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide