Rural residents and community leaders say the closure of 50 Target stores across Australia will disproportionately affect country towns.
Ninety minutes and no money
When Target Country closes in Manjimup in the state’s south-west in 2021, the nearest department store will be 90 minutes away in Bunbury.
Manjimup Chamber of Commerce President Victoria Howe says this will be devastating for the town, and has started a petition to highlight residents’ disappointment.
She says the Target closure is not only inconvenient for consumers, but also draws people out of the town to spend their money elsewhere.
“The ripple-on effect is that whilst people are in Busselton or Bunbury, they will shop for their other items there, so the effect is going to be huge on the town.”
Just one store closing— it’s not about the store, it’s about the entire effect of that on businesses and shopping facilities in town,” Ms Howe says.
She wants residents and visitors to shop local, but understands not everything is available in Manjimup.
“Let’s all do our best, because stuff like this happens, and we can only try,” she says.
The town without a Target
Katanning, in the state’s great southern region, saw their town’s Target store close in 2018.
Katanning Shire President Liz Guidera says the closure’s impact was felt immediately by the town, especially as the store occupied an historic building in the CBD, which is now empty.
The empty building where Target Country once was, in the heart of Katanning. Photos: Katanning Shire.
Business blows and opportunities
Liz Guidera says although the empty Target store was a blow to business in Katanning, the town has done well to fill the gap left by the retailer.
She says a locally-owned and operated Co-op services the town, and sells some of the items that people previously bought at Target.
“We have to look at the way our towns are, and not get too disheartened that there might be empty shops, but really celebrate those businesses that are thriving,” Ms Guidera says.
Manager of the Wheatbelt Business Network Rachel Thomas says the proposed closure of the Merredin Target is a shame, but it could provide an opportunity.
“The ideal scenario would be that someone jumps on the bandwagon straight away,” she says.
Ms Thomas says it would be great if a local business could take the place of Target, however she says the loss of the retailer will certainly be a blow to the town where small businesses are already struggling.
“It couldn’t have come at a worse bloody time!” she says.
No digital relief
However, both Ms Thomas and Ms Howe agree this is little comfort to regional residents, because parcels take a long time to arrive in the country.
“Regular post can take anywhere from seven days up to three weeks,” Ms Thomas says.
To view Victoria Howe’s petition, click here.