Shop owners rally for Murwillumbah

Leonie Smith with Tweed Fruit Exchange owner Maree Pouloudis.
Leonie Smith with Tweed Fruit Exchange owner Maree Pouloudis. John Gass

MURWILLUMBAH shop owners are rallying to restore the town's economy.

With a total of 36 offices and shops sitting empty and major retailer Retravision about to close on June 30, they have adopted a strategy to prevent Murwillumbah from becoming a ghost town.

Murwillumbah Chamber of Commerce president Toni Zuschke earlier criticised the federal budget as lacking in job creation with "no meat on the bones" and "no planning,"

With no help from the government, she and fellow business owners have resolved to take it in to their own hands to address the problem.

"I see what Murwillumbah is going through as a metamorphosis," she said.

"But, we're not alone.

"Other regions are also suffering as people spend less and online and home delivery services come in to play.

"But there's a positive side to this.

"There's the promise of a boom in the future.

"With 13% of the CBD up for grabs, there's the opportunity for new business trends and investment."

Ms Zuschke said "Chinese whispers" suggested that even more shops were about to close, but a positive attitude was essential.

"It boils down to supply and demand and this could be a chance to inject new blood into the community, change its identity and cater to the new demands."

Tweed Shire Councillors debated over a small business assistance strategy at its general meeting today, with mayor Barry Longland suggesting the waiving of parking fees till June 30 of 2013.

"The number of vacant shops in our commercial/retail areas is an issue that is alarming to the business sector and all councillors," he said.

"We must look at ways to assist and support small business in recognition of its importance to the Tweed economy."

He said businesses complained that there was "too much red tape" involved in setting up a business.

An online assistance package is on the agenda, together with a council business support person to advise businesses.

The council voted to hold a workshop on the issue with a report on its results to be submitted at the July general meeting.

Destination Tweed will carry out a survey performed by the Caldera Institute to get a snapshot of "how big the hole in the boat is," according to Ms Zuschke.

"We will take it to Tweed Shire Council," she said.

"True and accurate figures will allow us to do a business health check, reach a diagnosis and work on a cure."

The Shop Local Campaign is another strategy already in action, with 3,500 consumers already taking advantage of incentives.

With loyalty cards and businesses offering 10% discounts storewide on a rotation basis, Ms Zuschke said the community of consumers get to contribute in the recovery process.

Tweed Fruit Exchange owner Maree Pouloudis said shopping local was the key to success.

"Many local businesses donate to the community in various ways," she said.

"I think it's important that the community in turn supports us with its business."

"If you don't want doors to shut, then be a part of it," Ms Zuschke said.

Topics:  destination tweed economy murwillumbah murwillumbah chamber of commerce

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