Gatton Jewellers owner Bill Beckman encourages people to shop locally.
Gatton Jewellers owner Bill Beckman encourages people to shop locally. David Nielsen

Businesses battling to survive

UP TO a dozen small businesses in the Lockyer Valley could close if they fail to get ongoing support from their customers as they try to recover from the devastating floods.

The flood crisis came on the back of a series of challenges for businesses including the global financial crisis, a slow Christmas and seven-day trading in nearby cities.

But the floods were the biggest hit for small businesses, with many saying they will have no option but to close.

One Gatton business owner, who has operated her specialty shop in the town for the more than a decade, said there was “no hope” of surviving another slow period unless customers started supporting local businesses.

“If residents aren’t careful, there will be no specialty stores left in their rural towns,” she said.

Since flash flooding occurred in the Lockyer Valley on January 10, many businesses were inundated with water, particularly in Laidley and Forest Hill.

Several businesses in the townships remain closed and it is uncertain whether they will ever reopen.

Lockyer Better Business president Paul Emmerson said it had been an exceptionally difficult time in retail in light of the global financial crisis, and then the floods.

“There is only so much you can take when you are in retail, and when something devastating like this happens and you weren’t in a strong financial position before, the result can be devastating,” Mr Emmerson said.

“The next two to three months is going to be an especially difficult time for everyone, and until many businesses know the outcome of insurance claims the future of many shops reopening is uncertain.”

Gatton Jewellers owner and Lockyer Better Business vice-president Bill Beckman said the floods were the last straw for many businesses in the region.

“We are specialised shops and it has certainly affected us. We’ve had to drop the hours of our casual employees because business is down,” Mr Beckman said.

“At the moment the business is holding its own, but that could change, especially if business doesn’t pick up.

“We all struggled through 2010, a quiet Christmas and now we have to try and survive this blow. It’s very tough.”

Mr Beckman said it was going to be a difficult few months but the survival of small business in rural areas depended on customer support.

Forest Hill business owner Miriam Bain said although residents in the town had been supportive in helping the community rebuild what was lost during the floods, it had been difficult to get the word out that her store, Mimmis, and other stores in the area were back up and running and open for business.

The “eat street”, as it is referred to by locals, relies heavily on passing travellers to keep their businesses afloat.

“We’ve all lost stock and wages throughout the flood crisis, but now the flow-on effect, with the lack of trade, is really starting to get tough,” Mrs Bain said. “It’s like a double blow, yet our little community has so much to offer.”

LJ Hooker Gatton proprietor John Boyd said he raised the issue of small businesses closing with Tony Abbott when he visited the region last week.

“Even though some businesses in the Lockyer Valley haven’t been directly flood affected, they are still feeling the effects of flooding across the region,” Mr Boyd said.

“It’s the flow-on effect from flooding that is causing damage. If people don’t support their local communities that support them throughout the year, then it makes it hard to stay open.”

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