Return to community

SOCIAL media may not be the saviour of businesses, with people returning to traditional ways of connecting with retailers and their community.
That was the message heard at a workshop about revitalising main streets at Meeniyan Hall last Tuesday, June 27.
Gary Cattran, vice president of Mainstreet Australia, presented at the event held by South Gippsland Shire Council. Mainstreet Australia is a national voice for retail strips run by a volunteer committee.
South Gippsland Shire Councillor Jeremy Rich said main streets in small country towns offer what social media cannot: face to face communication between businesspeople and customers.
“We have the opportunity to offer a physical connection. If you look at it like that, the technology is ancillary,” he said.
“We need to offer people the opportunity to connect in a world where there is more and more disconnect.”
Mr Cattran said social media was a method for businesses to connect with their customers, particularly those in the younger market, but Korumburra hairdresser Rick Arestia noted not everyone cared about social media and his views were supported by others who said their customers did not use social media and so businesspeople needed other ways to connect with that clientele.
Michael Lester of Gecko Studio Gallery at Fish Creek could sense a trend away from technology overload.
“I reckon there is an opening for a business to advertise themselves as wi-fi free,” he said.
Trust between a business and customers, Mr Cattran said, remains integral to securing returning clientele, and there was now a greater focus on offering an experience: both in-store and in the street.
“It’s about what happens when you arrive in the street. It’s the whole feel. If you buy something and have to take it back, it’s part of the experience,” he said.
An anchor point for a town, such as the bicycle fitting store in Korumburra, was “gold” for a main street, Mr Cattran said.
Kate Pulham of Foster said strong regional centres, such as Leongatha is to South Gippsland, were valuable to retaining expenditure within a region.
“Rather than people turning to the internet, would it not be better for them to shop in our shire?” she said, noting that what she cannot buy in Foster she buys in other towns in the shire.
Council’s community strengthening coordinator Ned Dennis of Mirboo North noted his town was appealing to weekenders who wanted to visit somewhere unusual.
Mr Cattran urged businesses and communities to enhance their main streets and communities by attracting new businesses, ensuring water quality was adequate, engaging youth, shopping locally, maintaining premises, cooperating with other businesses, being forward thinking, catering for seniors, and welcoming new ideas and newcomers.
He suggested businesses offering similar products and services could collaborate by buying products and marketing together.
Iconic events can also help reinvigorate a town, such as what the Lost Trades Fair has done for Kyneton by offering a unique attraction.
The dominance of food outlets is resulting in a loss of diversity in retail strips, Mr Cattran said, with food venues in Melbourne retail strips willing to pay more rent than other businesses.
“Some of the hottest strips in Melbourne are down the back streets,” he said, noting businesspeople did not want to the higher rents charged for more prominent sites.
About 30 people attended the Meeniyan workshop, among them retailers, and representatives of town associations and chambers of commerce from such towns as Loch, Korumburra, Leongatha, Mirboo North, Foster, Fish Creek and Venus Bay.
There were also many staff from South Gippsland and Bass Coast councils, and councillors.

Towns united: representatives of South Gippsland towns came together at the Mainstreet Workshop at Meeniyan last Tuesday, June 27. From left, Noelene Cosson of Korumburra Business Association, presenter Gary Cattran of Mainstreet Australia, Kate Pulham of Foster Chamber of Commerce, Michael Lester of Fish Creek Development Group, South Gippsland Shire Council deputy mayor Cr Maxine Kiel, Catherine Waldron of Meeniyan Tourism and Traders, Cr Meg Edwards and council’s economic development project officer Claire Buckland.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=21830

Posted by on Jul 4 2017. Filed under Business. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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