LETTER: Support local businesses or they will close

Owning a small business is not necessarily an easy road to riches. It can be tough - long hours, few holidays, lots of bills, stiff competition, high costs, low profits (if any) and little pay. But without them, the town would die. Here, a local small business owner* puts things into perspective.

I want to put an opinion on the table.

Having a sports store, a clothes shop, a gift shop, a book store, a plumber, electrician or motor mechanic business (etc etc) in town is not a right. If you don't support your local business they have to close.

I've walked through 'those' country towns where every second shop is closed, the town is dying, or seems dead. And lately I'm worried for Cooma.

Here's a sentence I've come to hate.... 'I am going to Canberra, I'll get it there' - or 'I'll just get it off the net' - or similar. As a business owner, what am I meant to say to that? 'That's ok'; 'Of course I don't mind', or similar? It's not ok. I understand you aren't thinking of me when you say this - but I take it as insulting, I assure you. My business, and your town, needs you to be loyal to us. If I can't or won't help you, if the product can't be ordered, if that particular type of business isn't in town - of course you must seek other options - that's reasonable and I understand. And if I am rude to you, then no, I don't deserve your business.

Certain things are cheaper in large retail stores, or 'in Canberra'. Maybe you don't know why. The smaller the order, the more I have costs. I have minimum requirements for ordering that of course don't apply for large orders. Freight is free for large orders.

Discounts are also larger - allowing the discount to be passed on to the customer. And this exponentially rises with larger and larger orders. As well, larger stores sell some things at a loss in order to entice you into their store (physical or online) in the hope you will buy something else to their profit. I can't do that! Certain things are quicker to get in larger stores - again because of their buying terms and ability to get more stock quickly. Sometimes being in a country town and making small orders makes me lower in the priorities of some suppliers. And sometimes if I haven't had much custom I simply don't have the cash to buy - same as you I need to budget, yet differently to you I never know how much money I'll have from one week to the next.

I thought business owners were rich because many dress well, have staff... just downright have a business. It's wrong (for many anyway). I am not rich because my money is in my stock and I can't eat that! And when I sell my stock I only use it to buy more, it doesn't go into my pocket. I take less from my store than my staff get. Please don't think when you walk into my store that I have any more money than you and that I don't need your business as I'm 'obviously doing ok'.

If I was you, I'd be saying by now - stop whinging, you choose to have a business - suck it up. And I agree with you. I honestly do. I get it that my actions, and sometimes lack of action, generate consequences of which I am solely responsible.

I just want to share that I have a business in Cooma because I believe in the town, I love this town that I live in, and I want the town to enjoy the goods that I offer. If I just sit here and suck it up until I cannot, and close or sell, and hadn't spoken to you about how I feel - then that's not fair to you. I need to give you my point of view so I feel I've given this community a fair go.

Another point - since you've read this far (thank you). I am always asked by local organisations for donations. I haven't yet said no - but I have to admit that if I haven't seen a person in my store all year, who comes in and asks for a donation to their cause, I can't help but think that is rude .... would you?

At the risk of pointing out the obvious - no store in Canberra (or elsewhere in the world) is donating and assisting important organisations and schools in your community. They are also not employing your sons and daughters - the young people of the town who it is important to keep in the town for its prosperity and your future happiness.

I have written this anonymously as I believe what I am saying is relevant to many small businesses in town and I want you to think across the board.

I hope you will think a little more about seeing the person on the other side of the counter as no different to you, deserving of your polite behaviour, and ultimately working for your good.

I hope you decide that your money, maybe earned in town from an employer like me, maybe earned in your own business, is best kept in town if at all possible for everyone's benefit.

* Name and business withheld

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