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    West Vic Business ambassador Stacey Taig.

Business gains traction as shopping precincts 'humming'


Business leaders monitoring Wimmera trading activity expect busy Christmas shopping to reflect the start of a rebound in economic confidence.

West Vic Business ambassador Stacey Taig said shopping precincts in many regional centres were ‘humming’ and providing a much-needed ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.

She said apprehension and anxiety remained about how the COVID-19 pandemic might continue to affect trading and business viability. 

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But many businesses were adopting a proactive approach and despite having endured considerable hardship were working hard to forge ahead.

“There have been several strong indicators of a return to business confidence in the region – none more so than seeing busy shopping streets and centres,” Ms Taig said. “And isn’t it great that we’re seeing such life again in our streets? It’s been more than nice to see town centres absolutely packed with people shopping generally, let alone for Christmas, and enjoying each other’s company. We now need our hospitality sector back in full swing to drive momentum.

“What we’re seeing is representative of business communities scratching the surface of a rebound. 

“It’s indicative of a more positive trend after months of hardness.”

West Vic Business represents member business interests in Horsham, Northern Grampians, Yarriambiack, Hindmarsh and West Wimmera municipalities. Previously Business Horsham, the group expanded in September to represent business interests across the broader Wimmera and southern Mallee.

Ms Taig said businesses and supporting communities needed to remain positive and to also use lessons from the pandemic to adjust operations and direction.

“What we’re seeing at the moment points to everything going in the right direction. We only really have one of two ways to go,” she said.

“West Vic Business, with this rush back into a busy shopping period before Christmas, has identified a need for the region’s business community to be open to suggestions and-or new ways of generating opportunities.

“Sometimes we get stuck in the way we’ve always done things. COVID-19 has really held a mirror up to every business owner and said this is an opportunity to stop and have a look at what they do and how they operate. 

“It’s forced many to explore ways of adjusting what they need to do differently to capture the market.”
Ms Taig said online trading, which had blossomed during the pandemic, represented as much an opportunity as a challenge for regional outlets.

“We can’t simply deny that it’s there and must tap into it,” she said.

“There is a need to be proactive in the online space. We can’t afford to sit back and watch and the reality is that if you can’t beat online traders, join them through e-commerce or store websites and then provide the added bonus of local back-up support.

“We’re working with Wimmera Development Association on a digital-enhancement project next year and encouraging our members and the greater business community to look at that side of business.”

Ms Taig congratulated businesses that were surviving through the pandemic.

“My hat is off to every business owner. They have gone through a horrendous experience and endure the ongoing stresses involved,” she said.

“The fact they are surviving is a real credit to them.

“West Vic Business leads a regional chorus saying we’re very proud of them.”

Ms Taig encouraged communities to support their businesses as strongly as possible.

“Get out there and spend money in our stores and on our services. Businesses are integral to a regional way of life,” she said.

“And for businesses, customer service must be a primary focus. 

“The important aspect is that we want return custom and goodwill is everything. We also need business champions for our region.”

Ms Taig also stressed a need for everyone to be respectful amid businesses checking customers’ vaccine status.

Member for Lowan Emma Kealy brought the issue up in State Parliament, calling on the government to ‘do more to support businesses in managing the onerous task of enforcing COVID restrictions and to address COVID-related workforce shortages in regional areas’.

Ms Kealy said many businesses had contacted her with concerns regarding the responsibility they had to manage COVID rules.

“The strict compliance rules implemented by Labor are an additional burden and stress for our local businesses in terms of enforcement,” she said.

“Our regional businesses have been through enough and yet I continue to receive calls from business owners informing me that they have been bullied and harassed by enforcement officers despite their compliance with Victorian COVID rules.

“I am also informed of staff who are being threatened each and every day while checking vaccination status or refusing service for those people who are not vaccinated.”

The entire December 15, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!