Retailers under threat

WHILE Dick Smith staff in the Latrobe Valley face a nervous wait to learn of their stores’ fate in coming months, Traralgon’s Retravision has maintained it is business as usual at its outlet despite store closures elsewhere.

A slowdown in consumer spending coupled with a growth in online shopping has been blamed for the demise of business in the electronics retail sector.

Traralgon Retravision owner/manager John Simic told The Express he believed the economy was in a recession, with the “downturn in spending affecting everyone” but insisted his business was prepared to “weather the storm”.

A spokesperson for Dick Smith, however, said the Woolworths-owned chain had been closing stores at a rate of about 30 per year for the last two to three years and intended to announce the next round of closures of “underperforming stores” within coming months.

The spokesperson would not speculate on whether stores in Morwell and Traralgon were considered “underperforming” but said so far more than 90 percent of staff at affected stores had been deployed to other businesses within the Woolworths company, including Big W, supermarkets, liquor stores and petrol stations.

When asked if local staff could take comfort in this outcome, the spokesperson said “yes, this is our highest priority”.

News Retravision Southern had been placed into voluntary administration earlier this week raised fears of a local impact.

The company reportedly supplied products and support to more than 100 privately-owned franchises across three states, including Victoria.

Mr Simic said he expected, as a result, some stores might seek to exit leases once they were up for renewal but “we own this premises and we will be continuing for another 50 years.”

Mr Simic dismissed the impact of Retravision Southern’s woes as minimal on his business.

He said it would not affect how his store sourced stock, adding “currently a few of the suppliers are transferring accounts from one office to another and this might take a few days”.

The longtime businessman acknowledged online buying was “around for the future now” but said his business was “more than happy to match any online offer” allowing customers to pay for product in the same way and have their goods delivered.

Mr Simic said he also owned Retravision in Sale and Bairnsdale, making the business “the largest independently-owned chain in Gippsland”.