MIXED FORTUNES: Economic challenges are building everywhere for retailers in 2017, but Warwick looks to fare well.
MIXED FORTUNES: Economic challenges are building everywhere for retailers in 2017, but Warwick looks to fare well. Chrissy Harris GLA200711POPU

Warwick safe from retail doom

SLUGGISH shopping footfall has killed off some of the national retail sector's biggest names this year but experts predict the Southern Downs will be insulated from high profile collapses and closures during the next 12 months. A flurry of famous name failures, including Dick Smith, Pumpkin Patch and Masters, and a wave of international retailers opening in Australia next year raises the prospect the worst could still be yet to come.

But analysts remain sanguine over the prospects for retail giants including Bunnings,Target, Woolworths, Coles and Aldi, in regional areas including the Southern Downs.

Economic challenges are building everywhere for retailers in 2017, according to Associate Professor Gary Mortimer, a retail expert at Queensland University of Technology,

"But I think areas like Warwick are somewhat insulated when it comes to these large stores feeling the pinch that they may in capital cities,” Prof Mortimer said.

"Target is struggling elsewhere but there is a real opportunity for Country Target in Warwick to thrive,” he said.

"It has a good offering for the demographic and is isolated by distance from intense competition of other major stores and international entrants.”

Prof Mortimer believes Warwick has the population to support the entry of Coles but incumbents Aldi, IGA and Woolworths will need to lift their game.

"I think you will see those stores rolling out new technology and self-service checkouts before Coles arrives,” he said.

"But most consumers, particularly in regional areas, prefer to visit same supermarket each week and shop on the same day so there will be loyalty attached to their choice of grocery outlet.”

Closures of any major retailers was unlikely in Warwick next year and smaller operators would remain highly competitive to maintain customer loyalty.

Local retailers are less optimistic for the retail sector in 2017 and beyond.

Warwick's low population growth will be a threat to small and major retailers in the future, a Warwick supermarket owner said.

"If you don't have population growth, there won't be the employment required for money to flow into the community and its retail stores.

"It has been a tough Christmas for all retailers here and that's an indication of what's ahead,” he said.

A NAB national survey found spending across essential and non-essential items has fallen to its lowest seasonally adjusted levels since early 2015.

Consumers are concerned about low wage growth and are becoming increasingly price-savvy, NAB chief economist Alan Oster said.

"I look at what we're seeing across our eftpos and various cards, and I saw a lot of pre-Christmas sales on, and I think 'well maybe it's not that good',” Mr Oster said.



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