CQ shop owner: 'We're the ones getting punished'
MOUNT Morgan shoppers are venting their anger at the main street renovation, with many choosing to take their business elsewhere.
It's been nearly six months since the closure of the main street parking to accommodate the two million dollar expansion of the island and round-a-bout, and many locals are voicing their frustrations with the inconvenience it is placing not just upon them but on small businesses.
NewsXpress co-owner, Kerrilyn Page, says that despite the complaints from shoppers about not being able to access shops via street parking, there is ample parking located alongside the primary school on Central street, by the School of Arts near the post office, and on a vacant block of land between the Grand Hotel and the School of Arts.
All of which, Ms Page says, is only 70 to 150 metres around the corner.
"It's just frustrating,” Ms Page, 47, told the Morning Bulletin.
"I think if we can get that message out to locals that the shops really need their support and to not stay away because they're angry with the council over the development and the inconvenience to them. They're really hurting their local businesses.
"They're stroppy with the council, they're stroppy with the contractors doing it, but we're the ones getting punished by shoppers staying away. More frustrating is when visiting shopping centres to shop customers are happy to walk longer distances.
Ms Page has stayed up to date with town meetings and has been frustrated by the attendance.
She has thrown her support behind the street-scape and anticipated that the December reveal would cause some sort of inconvenience to business.
However, she wasn't anticipating just how hard her news agency would be hit.
Since the beginning of the development in May, the business is down 11 percent in overall revenue, and the number of sales is down by 20 percent, which accounts for nearly 6,400 sales lost.
To combat the loss of foot traffic, Ms Page revamped her in-store cafe and focused on the quality of the service and product.
"The coffee is our only growth area that we've had. We're in double-digit growth with our coffee and the coffee side of things but if we hadn't had that bringing feet in the door we would've locked the doors and been gone ages ago,” she said.
"We're had an increase in our coffee sales of 48% ... We've always had coffee but we've really upped the game.”
The average sale value and average items per sale has also increased for the business, but without the numbers of shoppers coming in, the business isn't growing.
Ms Page attributes the slow start of the street-scape to the major hold ups between the contractors, council and Ergon, and said that the planning process "wasn't completed before they began dismantling and blocking off the street”.
As the power poles had to be taken out of the middle of the street before any work could be done, the landscaping was put on hold because the power poles hadn't gone.
"They safely could've closed it off probably two months after they did but I think because council had given the commitment that it would start after the Golden Mount festival they were keen to show progress,' she said.
"It's caused extra pain at the beginning if they'd just had everything lined up ready to start properly and knew what they were doing it probably could've been fenced off probably in July, not the beginning of May.”
Ms Page says that discussion between business owners, councils and landlords has also been the cause of the delays.
"They're putting all the power underground and they have to rewire every single shop in the main street so that all of our power comes in from the rear of the shops which have meant Ergon have had to install two power poles in the backyard of every single shops in the main street.
Ms Page wishes that customers would put aside their annoyance with the renovations and focus on keeping local businesses afloat.
"Ultimately, we will have a beautiful new user-friendly street, but we need support or we won't be here.”
The Morning Bulletin approached Mayor (at the time) Margaret Strelow for comment on the streetscape issue.
Ms Strelow says that the project will transform the face of the town with new seating and amenities to drive people into Morgan St and get them to stay longer and shop longer.
She also told the Morning Bulletin that based on population, the investment into the town's CBD is greater than that in Rockhampton and it is long overdue.
"We appreciate the patience business has shown and no one is doubting Mount Morgan is facing difficult economic circumstances but as we've seen in Rockhampton and Yeppoon, it's simply not possible to bring about the transformative change for local businesses to combat the rise of larger shopping centres without a major revamp of the CBD.
"An added difficulty - and at the same time opportunity there - has been that the bulk of the money has come from Works for Queensland funding which dictated the time we've had to get this project done.
"I absolutely urge all shoppers in Mount Morgan to support their local traders. There are car parks which require a little bit longer walk but what Mount Morgan can't afford to lose is more of its main street traders.
Ms Strelow said that she and the council are fully committed to Mount Morgan's future and has thrown its full support behind Carbine Resources and the reopening of the mine.
"We are asking candidates during this election campaign to commit to reopening the Dinosaur Caves tourism offering,” she said.
"The revitalisation of the CBD is the foundation on which we as a community will build the future success of this town and, with the end of the project in sight, the future is looking strong for Mount Morgan.”