Ararat Dimmeys has announced the closure of its Barkly Street department store.
The retail store has been an icon of shopping in Ararat for decades.
manager Lisa Townsend has spoken of her shock as the company announced its decision to close the store earlier this week.
Ms Townsend said her biggest fear was future employment for her and other team members in Ararat.
"I am unsure at this stage if there is an opportunity for work in the area," she said.
"There will be a number of us facing the same predicament, when the shop is officially closed, with the same skill set.
"I am going to miss a lot of people and customers."
Ms Townsend said the announcement came as a "massive shock".
"At first I took it very personally," she said.
"I do realise the company has to do what it needs, but this is will impact the town because we are the only shop like it here."
After working through the ranks, Ms Townsend was appointed store manager in March 2018.
"I've never been through anything like this before," she said.
"All of the staff are very disappointed and I now am turning my attention to them and supporting them in the best way I can.
"Luckily for me, the staff are trying to think positive and aren't taking out any frustrations on me or the company and are happy to serve our customers."
Moving forward, Mrs Townsend said would look to management to guide her on timelines for the store closure.
"Not having an exact end date is frustrating," she said.
"Hopefully we know more information soon and I will work through the processes put in place by upper-management."
Financial controller Madhu Khadka said it was a disappointing outcome.
“The reasoning behind the decision was retail is getting tougher and tougher every day,” he said.
“Online presence is causing grief along with a lot of other factors.”
A final closing date is yet to be determined.
“We are working through options and take some things into consideration,” Mr Khadka said.
“We need to look at how much stock is left in the store – we don’t want to bring the stock back. The plan at this stage is to get through all of the stock.
“It could be two months, (it) could be three months. It all depends on how we are tracking with the sale.”
Mr Khadka said in other circumstances, when stores have closed, there would be 90 days’ notice given.
“It’s a little different this time. We have spoken to the landlord,” he said.
“We expressed our decision to close as it wasn’t sustainable. The landlord was understanding and supportive.”
Mr Khadka said the closure would impact a number of staff members.
“We haven’t got any close stores to Ararat at this stage which could open up transfers,” he said.
“We are working closing with staff and supporting them as they look for work elsewhere.”
An Ararat Rural City Council statement read that the closure was part of a state-wide decision to “pull back” from rural areas.
Chief executive Tim Harrison said he was confident the closure was a strategic decision; not one that specifically targeted Ararat.
“After discussions with the leasing agent, council is pleased to hear there are already other businesses interested in the shop front, so it’s unlikely to be empty for very long,” Dr Harrison said.
“The overall economic impact to the region is likely to be small, given it is a national retailer whose profits go back to head office – but it is a very sad decision for the staff members, who will lose their jobs and we send our best to the people affected.”
Dr Harrison said the positioning and size of the shop was rare and would create an excellent opportunity for another businesses keen to move to Ararat or the location.
“We look forward to working with interested businesses who wish to lease the premises,” he said.
The council conducted a business mix analysis that showed the Ararat shop occupancy rate was at 94 per cent in 2018.
“A shop vacancy rate of between three per cent and seven per cent is normal for a strongly performing economy and is a positive as it provides opportunities for new businesses to open in town,” the council statement read.
“Ararat’s vacancy rate compares well with other sections of the state including Swan Hill and Horsham at seven per cent, Ballarat at 12 per cent and Maldon at 15 per cent.”