Jeanswest acting manager Sian Edge and staff member Ashlee Clear.
Jeanswest acting manager Sian Edge and staff member Ashlee Clear. Emma Channon

Warwick economy leading the way

IT has been a tough year for Queensland businesses, with the summer floods only adding to the burden of the GFC and the high Aussie dollar – but Warwick’s economy is leading the way in retail confidence.

The latest research undertaken by council shows Warwick’s CBD retail vacancy rates at a low 4.2%.

This figure has remained steadfast since the last survey six months ago, and looks bright against the Queensland average of 7.9%.

Stanthorpe’s retail vacancy rate was calculated at 6.8%.

Southern Downs Regional Council economic development officer for Warwick John Randall said these results were “very pleasing”.

“Considering the national slump in retail, I think the businesses here are holding up better than on a national basis,” he said.

“Especially in the last 12 months, ours have held up with the effects of the GFC and the strong dollar.

“It’s good that (those factors) don’t appear to affect us that much locally and the other major thing is people still have confidence, because they’re holding onto their leases.”

As a result, Mr Randall said, the main street has remained “very tightly held” and of the handful of newer businesses to Warwick, none had been able to acquire a lease along Palmerin St.

Mr Randall said Warwick’s natural conservatism with spending also contributed to its hardy economic climate.

“Warwick has always experienced a steady slow-growth (economy); it’s never been a boom or bust town, whether that be in construction, retail or in services,” he said.

“Traditionally our business psyche is slow and steady and that’s what our figures show.

“Our economy is growing slowly but surely at about 5% each year. I think that conservative psyche pays off in tough times.”

Sian Edge, acting manager of one of the newer businesses in Warwick, Jeanswest, said the Rose City was the niche the company had been looking for.

“We saw a good market here. Our company did a fair bit of research to see if there was an opportunity for us to come to Warwick and with us being denim, there aren’t too many others here with that niche,” she said.

“We service the smaller communities like Killarney and Stanthorpe, who would otherwise have to drive to Toowoomba to get their jeans.”

While Mrs Edge said she wasn’t sure of what the first choice of address would have been for the shop, she said being in Rose City Shoppingworld fitted the company model.

“The majority of Jeanswest stores are in major centres, so this lease probably would have been high priority.”

Another business to have signed a recent lease, The Podiatrist on Fitzroy St, has been in Warwick for seven years.

Manager Marena Baker said the business had to expand in response to their growing clientele.

“We are one of four businesses that make inserts for shoes on site, and we didn’t have the room at our previous place,” she said.

“We get people from all over the place and we also conduct practices in rural areas like Inglewood, Dalby, Texas and Tara because of the need.”

Chamber of Commerce president Dave Littleproud echoed John Randall’s thoughts on Warwick’s low vacancy retail rates, and said it was a tribute to business.

“Over the last two months we’ve seen close to half a dozen businesses established in Warwick, which I think is a sign of our economy’s stability,” he said.

“We don’t have the big cyclical changes in our economy like other regional centres and by having a stable and consistent rate of growth, it means we attract businesses because of the assurity.”

Some of the newest businesses in Warwick (including those who have expanded or moved) are Zaraffas, Warwick’s Famous Pie Shop, KFC, Saddlery Supplies, The Podiatrist and Jeanswest.

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