Ararat businesses must change with the times: Mayor

ARARAT - Ararat Rural City Council Mayor Paul Hooper has issued a warning to local businesses to change with the times or risk falling behind as the retail revolution continues to move at a rapid rate.

Speaking at a local business breakfast last week, Cr Hooper said the reluctance of some retailers to not extend trading hours is contributing to the growing amount of shoppers turning to the internet to bag a bargain.

What's worse is the failure to move with the times is leading to prospective new families choosing other towns to relocate to over Ararat, according to the mayor.

"In the retail space I am going to be perfectly blunt here, I would be lying if I said that I thought Barkly Street was thriving it's clearly not," Cr Hooper said.

"The Global Financial Crisis and internet shopping has no doubt made retail more difficult, we however collectively fail the liveability test."

Cr Hooper acknowledged that some employment industries in Ararat are very healthy, with AME Systems now rehiring after it was forced to lay off 45 workers in October.

The corrections sector is largely responsible for the recent growth of the municipality's population in the order of 1.7 percent and is still looking to fill approximately 80 full time jobs.

Cr Hooper said while potential new employment opportunities are attracting families to visit the region, what they are finding upon inspection are some areas are stuck in the past.

"Prospective new employees of the prison are bringing families up on weekends to check things out and what do they see?" he said

"We have all seen it. Trading hours...I am sorry to tell you that midday Saturday closing ceased to be relevant in 1980.

"As an individual I started Sunday trading 19 years ago, it wasn't yesterday. Talk to your peers and you will discover that scale builds scale - the more of you that are open the more support you will have from consumers."

Business studies have shown Australia-wide that Sunday is the largest growth of any day in retail.

Cr Hooper singled out Lyal Eales and The Reject Shop as two Ararat business that have made a success out of trading longer on Saturdays and opening on Sundays.

"We are failing the liveability test for prospective new people coming into our community," he said.

"Corrections want these new people living in our community, we want and need these prospective new families. We need to grow our population to be sustainable."

The Ararat Rural City Council will be undertaking an analysis of the municipality's economy over the next 12 months to try and get an accurate understanding of where locals are spending their money.

Cr Hooper said studies have been done in this field before and in the most recent report it was revealed that the biggest loss was in the white goods retail.

"It will, I am sure, make interesting reading," he said.

Cr Hooper also told the large crowd at the breakfast that the Western Highway bypass of Ararat is coming in the near future and everyone needs to prepare for the changes that it will bring.

"None of us know what Barkly Street will look like post the bypass," he said.

"Traders you need to prepare for change. The bypass will happen and we need to adjust our business plans to reflect that."

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