**A message from the President: Business needs to remain confident **

Written on the 30 July 2017

The Broome Chamber was saddened to see a long-term Chinatown retailer, Anastasia's Family Jeweller close its doors last week after 40 years in business.  Laurene & Daryl Young have been pivotal members of our business community and our hearts go out to them and their family. Retailing is notoriously difficult and the fact that Anastasia's bucked the national trend of small business closures which sees more than 60% folding in their first three years demonstrates extraordinary drive, tenacity and resilience over many years.

As a geographically isolated and relatively small community, it's easy for Broome to lose confidence over closures and empty shops.  Negative press and TV stories unnecessarily adds to a loss of confidence.   When retail businesses are folding by the dozen in cities, they often remain un-noticed by the broader community; in Broome shops closing often have personal connections to us. Even national chains such as Myer are struggling to cling on to their once-dominant stronghold on the market, yet at the same time Australia Post has turned around its fortunes through their parcel delivery service - a sign which points to the rising tide of change and an increase in online sales.  Amazon and Aldi will also be challenging the status quo as they expand their reach across the country. Clearly, the retail market is changing and this will create challenges as well as opportunities. For Broome there are additional challenges for small business and retailers including a relatively short tourism season, changes in buying habits and disposable income levels and add to this the constant government interference due to overregulation, increasing taxes and rising costs, many wonder why anyone would consider starting a small business at all?  And why open a business in Broome?

For many people, there is an innate desire and drive for independence which often translates into a desire to be their own boss by starting a small business or retail outlet. The risks are significant but so are the rewards if you get it right.

We should never lose sight that a good business, well run and adaptable can survive and thrive in almost any environment.

Fortunately, Broome has a much more stable and diversified economy than many other regional towns. Broome has not been subject to the wild swings of boom and bust to the extent of many other regional centers in WA.   Additional money is flowing into town due in increased activity related to the Browse Basin and Sheffield's Thunderbird mineral sands operation will generate around 140 direct jobs and many other indirect jobs in the next 12 to 18 months. Opportunities will eventuate at Mt Gibson on Koolan Island as mining recommences.  Horticultural, agricultural and pastural activities are growing. 

We are still an attractive, desirable and well-known tourist destination albeit that airfares are still too high.  Although the tourist industry is very seasonal many businesses still achieve strong trade (albeit they must work very hard for it) during the high season which in many cases underpins lower revenue during the wet season.  Recommencement of the sealing of the Cape Leveque road will open the area to greater tourism options and activity. 

Some businesses are adapting to trading conditions by successfully moving part of their retail businesses online to sell to the whole of Australia, 24/7 rather than just Broome during normal business hours. Others have established niche services having recognized a gap in the market. There are also examples of new business growing very rapidly due to a focus on a very high standard of service which was missing in parts of that sector.  Recently, around 17 artists and artisans got together and with support from the Broome Chamber of Commerce have opened the Broome Makers Gallery in Johnny Chi Lane spanning two previously empty shops. The Artists and Artisans are paying commercial rents, covering costs and generating incomes for themselves plus providing a local attraction for tourists and the community.

The truth is, running a business is hard.  However, history has shown that in almost any environment, people's innate desire for independence, preparedness to take a risk and work hard can produce outstanding results. 

There is no doubt a new wave of generational change is happening. Solutions that once worked may no longer apply. Digital disruption is real and will drive change especially in the retail sector.  Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine another innate desire, which is the communal activity of visiting shopping precincts, meeting friends, having a coffee, browsing in shops and checking out and buying desirable items in person will completely disappear.  With that in mind, how will our shopping strips in Chinatown look in 5, 10, or 20 years?  While todays empty shop is a very daunting prospect, it will provide the opportunity for someone with a new idea, a new approach and a capacity for hard work to succeed. These entrepreneurs, along with current businesses who are adaptable, will drive the change and will soon dictate how these spaces will evolve. 

Retaining and building confidence in the Broome economy is super important to ensure steady growth, job opportunities and a healthy community.  For everyone who hears a 'doom and gloom' story, we challenge you to point out one good news story about our town - don't allow yourself to get on the negative bandwagon. And please buy local whenever you can!  Broome is resilient and we have a wide range of positive contributors to the community. Let's build the future together.




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