Mullumbimby’s local economy seems to be surviving despite the doom predicted when Woolworths opened this store.
Mullumbimby’s local economy seems to be surviving despite the doom predicted when Woolworths opened this store.

David vs Goliath: it's a draw

THE doomsayers thought it would ruin Mullumbimby's local economy, but six months after Woolworths opened, it appears there has been little impact on small business.

The Northern Star yesterday spoke to a variety of local businesses, including a fruit shop, deli, bakery and newsagent, with all reporting minimal - if any - impact.

The two butchers are the exceptions.

Both have experienced big downturns in trade and have been forced to cut back or lay off staff.

Owner of Devine's Quality Meats, Vince Devine, said takings were down by about 30%, an impact that has seen the butcher lose three casual staff.

"It's the first year I haven't been up (on the previous year) for 22 years," Mr Devine said.

It's a similar story at the town's other butcher, East's Meats.

Manager Nathan East cut staff hours after a 20% drop in trade.

Mr East said people still came to buy finer cuts of meat, but sales of basic bulk items like mince, sausages and dog bones had fallen away.

"We can't compete with a lot of the specials they have," Mr East said.

He said his location at the opposite end of town from Woolworths was also having an impact.

"Since Mallams (the old supermarket) closed there's not a lot of call for people to be down this end of the street anymore," he said.

"At least back then you had that opportunity for people to see your stuff.

"The traffic's not here any more I guess."

Fruit store owner Paul Medeiros, who was vocal in the anti-Woolies campaign, said he expanded into a grocery range to compensate for potential impacts and has seen sales grow.

He said educating customers about buying local had paid off.

Marina Boyas, of deli and gourmet takeaway D'Lush, said her business strategy was simple: eliminate any products from her store that were being sold at Woolworths. "If they have that, I won't carry it."

Owner of the Mullumbimby Country Bakehouse Kyle Jones said his takings were down slightly, but blamed tough retail conditions Australia-wide.

That was echoed by Chamber of Commerce president Dean Stanford and others who said the economic climate made it hard to gauge the impact.

Meanwhile, anti-Woolies campaigners have claimed some credit for minimising the impacts.

Deborah Lilley, who was a spokesperson for the campaign, said educating the community about the negatives of Woolworths had kept people shopping local.

"It hasn't been the devastating impact it could have been," she said.

A BRIEF HISTORY

January 2008: Woolworths buys local supermarket Mallams, as well as land at Station St that had been earmarked for Mallams expansion

July 2008: Protesters burn a replica Woolworths store during an anti-Woolies rally of 200 people.

January 2009: The NSW Department of Planning gives approval for Woolworths to be built in Mullumbimby

July 2009: Byron Shire Council blocks the Woolworths development by refusing to approve its on site sewage system

January 2010: Woolies wins an appeal in the Land and Environment Court against Byron Shire Council's decision

June 22, 2011: Mullumbimby Woolworths opens to the public.


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