Shepparton business owners are bracing for more damage from car park closures

Welsford St car park, near Fryers St, will be closed for two weeks from Thursday January 12 to Wednesday January 25 and then again from February 20 to 28 to allow for upgrades to the car park entrances and exits.

It’s almost the final straw for some business owners who say Christmas shopping has been hit hard and their traditional back-to-school rush is now curtailed.

For some companies, these are the two busiest periods of the year.

Lovells Shepparton news agency owners Gary Lovell and Louise Lovell-Brown said that while they understood work had to be done at the Welsford St entrance to the embankment, they would like it to be done more quickly.

They believe that the workers should have worked on weekends and at night in order to get the job done faster.

“We know that if we want to go forward we have to work with the council to fix it,” Mr Lovell said.

“But it was very bad in terms of customers coming into the store.

“The intakes are quite low. Christmas went well.”

With Christmas stock ordered months in advance, the news outlet was left with a lot of holiday stock it couldn’t get rid of due to a drop in customers.

“We were down 50-60 per cent on Christmas Day in normal trade,” Ms Lovell-Brown said.

“Some days on a Friday we’d have 15-20 people here (at once),” Mr Lovell said.

“Last Friday, we had one.”

Ms Lovell-Brown also cited the week the $100 million Powerball jackpot was drawn – which usually brings a significant boost to business.

“We were down 48 percent in revenue that week,” she said.

“We should have been double or triple normal.”

Mr Lovell said it wasn’t just the closure of Welsford St that affected business, but the amount of traffic the works forced onto Wyndham St put people off going there “because it takes them too long to get to that area”.

“We rely on people being able to park and come in for a quick sale,” Ms Lovell-Brown said.

Since parents traditionally buy their children’s back-to-school supplies, the owners were afraid they would be left with more stock that they wouldn’t be able to get rid of.

Quiet: Rebel Sport customer service manager Julia McCarty outside the back door of a store that usually sees 70 percent of its customers and is now almost at a standstill. Photo by Megan Fisher

Rebel Sport is another business that has problems with roadworks.

Customer Service Manager Julia McCarty said the back-to-school period is traditionally the Rebel’s third busiest time of year – behind Christmas and just before football season.

Two of those times fell during the duration of the works.

Ms McCarty said the car park behind the shop was empty at a time when it was usually full and she believed it was because people were confused by road closure signs.

“Most of our trade comes through the back entrance (to the store),” she said.

“It (closing the parking lot) will really hurt us.

“We have no doubt that all this has to happen, it’s just a matter of time.”

Tough times: Afterglow Coffee owner Rebecca Barillaro at her cafe, which she says has lost 50 per cent of its traffic due to Welsford St roadworks. Photo by Megan Fisher

Rebecca Barillaro opened the doors to her company Afterglow Coffee five months ago.

Since then, Shepparton has had flooding and now roadworks are turning away more and more customers.

“It was really hard,” she said.

“Our trade has more than halved.”

Ms. Barillaro said she and her husband even discussed whether to keep the cafe open while the back parking lot was closed.

Downfall: Priceline Pharmacy Shepparton pharmacist Chenqi ‘Lucas’ Luo said customers were finding it difficult to get work. Photo by Megan Fisher

The nearby Priceline Pharmacy Shepparton is also quiet.

“For Priceline, November and December are the busiest periods, when gift sales take place,” said pharmacist Chenqi ‘Lucas’ Luo.

But last year it was not like that.

And now the pharmacy has a lot of things it couldn’t get rid of.

Traditionally, January has been the time to deal with “dead stock” that hasn’t been sold, but that didn’t happen this year.

Mr Luo said it was difficult for customers to know where to park.

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