'We' the key to address Merimbula's retail woes

In response to last week's News Weekly front page article on Merimbula's retail woes, Chamber of Commerce president Lynn McColl says the sector needs an injection of positivity and collaboration.

Ms McColl said she was concerned negative attitudes were having a darkening effect on the Merimbula CBD.

"Being caught up in a negative mindset can only have a knock on effect and that line of thinking can become the truth for some people," Ms McColl said in response to comments made by Merimbula retailers outlined in the article.

She said she believed Merimbula had all the qualities and potential to be the thriving town centre it had been in the past and can continue to be into the future - even moreso if positive attitudes jumped on board to help the town move forward.

"By working from the ground up, building confidence and community with a positive mindset, more is possible."

Ms McColl said events like the jazz festival and Christmas drew people to the town, and planning for short, medium and long term events and projects was the way forward.

In regards to the empty shop fronts peppered around the CBD, Ms McColl saw room for innovation.

"Let's turn them into an opportunity and find innovative and interesting ways to fill them. There's room for us to shape our future and decide what we want for Merimbula.

"But 'we' is the key."

Meanwhile, Merimbula landlord Robert Green said focusing on commercial rental costs missed the point.

While high rents were not the only concern expressed by the retailers we spoke to, it was the most common theme.

However, Mr Green pointed to "poor planning decisions" by the council giving Woolworths a "stranglehold on retailing" in the shire.

"The business community is just as concerned about the way the town is going as is everyone else," he said.

"In the past 12 years Woolworths have built a supermarket in Tura, another in Merimbula, a third in Bega, a large discount department store in Bega and additional specialty shops. At the same time the population of the district is substantially unchanged," he said.

"The result is that the supply of retailing has increased by more than the demand for it, and all other retailers are under pressure.

"The new supermarkets may help the towns, but the damage done by setting up Tura as an alternative shopping centre dealt the Merimbula CBD a crippling blow," Mr Green said.

"Now ask the question, 'what is the council going to do to repair the damage?'"

According to Ms McColl, the chamber currently has 47 members, however there are more than 100 businesses in Merimbula.

"People need to put their trust in and get involved. With more people doing bite sized chunks and being part of a collaboration we can build really strong networks and achieve so much more."

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