TOUGH BREAK: Wesfarmers has decided to close down Biloela's Target Country as part of a nationwide shutdown of Target stores.
TOUGH BREAK: Wesfarmers has decided to close down Biloela's Target Country as part of a nationwide shutdown of Target stores.

Small businesses looking to fill the market gap

THE Biloela community was rocked on Friday night when Target's parent Wesfarmers announced that the Biloela Target Country would be one of the 50 stores of its kind to close across Australia.

The announcement of the closure on the Biloela Community Notice and Discussion Board got 118 comments as residents came to grips with the loss of a major retailer.

Biloela Enterprise president Michaela Lawson said the store's closure had a silver lining, with some small Biloela businesses now having the opportunity to fill the hole left behind.

"The Kariboe Street Collective will reopen soon as the little market company and may bring in some things," Ms Lawson said.

"We have Vinnies which has the space for all those clothing lines.

"In the shopping centre we have Millers but that doesn't cater for the kids.

"The downfall is there won't be a shop in town for kids clothes but that doesn't mean another shop can't come in."

The Biloela store will close in early 2021 after 21 years as a mainstay business in Biloela.

Callide MP Colin Boyce said the closure of Target Countrys around the country was a big blow to regional and rural Queensland.

"While I'm not in favour of the closure, it's a commercial decision made by them which extends also from COVID-19 costs we have had," Mr Boyce said.

"Talking to people around Biloela, they seem to think Target is one of the better shops in town to buy things so it will be a big blow to lose that store.

"At the end of the day businesses operate on economics.

"While I don't agree with the closure of these Target shops around all these little towns in Australia, what can we really do to stop it."

Wesfarmers will convert 10 to 40 Target stores and 52 Country Target stores in regional areas to Kmart stores.

It will also close 10 to 25 large format stores and 50 small format Target Country stores.

Ms Lawson said this closure didn't signal the end of bringing major retailers to Biloela with the expansion of Biloela Shoppingworld by the McConaghy Group still in the works.

"I've heard people say many times when a store closes that this is a nail in the coffin for Biloela," Ms Lawson said.

"When we had Crossroads closed last year and Rockmans closed down that was the same thing with Rockmans pushing us to buy online.

"We still have the development of the shopping centre and the roadhouse development on the Burnett Highway.

"We still have the turnover of small businesses coming and going.

"Target Country was one of the bigger sellers we had but it doesn't mean there's not another opportunity for someone else to come in."

Callide Dawson Chamber of Commerce President Steve Bates said he believes the Biloela Shoppingworld expansion will bring perhaps a couple of large chains to the area. 

"From when Target Country closes there will be an exciting chance for another retail outlet to fill the void," Mr Bates said. 

"I don't think all the lines lost from Target will be catered for but I think some lines can be added to stores that will still be trading. 

"Shopping locally must be supported more than ever however in saying that, online shopping will become more common place overall."

In a statement, a Target spokeswoman said the company was minimising job losses where possible.

"Across the Kmart Group we have made a significant effort to avoid store closures and retain our people and for impacted store team members we have the benefit of time to help find alternative employment opportunities.

"All team members in Target stores scheduled for conversion to Kmart will be offered the opportunity to join the growing Kmart team, for other affected Target team members, we will work with them to identify and offer other redeployment opportunities in Kmart, Catch, Bunnings and Officeworks as these businesses continue to grow."

For the Target Country employees that will be out of work, Ms Lawson said there were plenty of job opportunities in the area, it would just depend on what they wanted.

"We have the same argument with Teys every year, they have plenty of jobs out there it just depends on the job you want to do," Ms Lawson said.

"Some of them may be tedious or boring for some people and someone that has worked in retail but there's plenty of jobs available.

"COVID-19 might not be the best time to find work but there's plenty around especially on the farms."

Target has said it would look to "increase awareness of our online business" in regional locations, but would also "form focus groups of customers from areas without stores to continue to seek their feedback on Target's broader online offering and how Target can support them post store closures".



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