Champion of small business goes under
THE dire situation facing small businesses in Port Douglas was painfully demonstrated with the closure of four businesses in Macrossan St last week.
Something Tropical, Something Tropical For Kids, the Port Douglas T-shirt Company and Bamboo Shack closed the doors for the final time last Wednesday after owners Doug and Wendy Calvert went into voluntary administration.
The business closures bring the number of empty shops in the Port Douglas retail precinct to around 50.
Even more harrowing for the local business community is the fact the latest casualties of the economic downturn were two of the region’s greatest champions.
Mr Calvert has been a driving force on the Port Douglas Chamber of Commerce commit- tee for the past three years and was responsible for securing the Melbourne Business School’s “Revitalise Port Douglas” project which brought some of Australia’s brightest minds to the town earlier this year to help shed some light and suggest some solutions to the issues crippling many local businesses.
He was also the driving force in highlighting the plight of the local retail sector and liaised challenges facing Port and many other tourist towns in Australia and hence reflecting back it’s not surprising that we now have nearly 50 vacant shops. Unfortunately many more have confided in me they are also planning an exit over the next six months.
I have been working to do some radical surgery to attempt to save the sinking ship. Unfortunately a bit like Titanic the problems started a long time before I hit the iceberg.
We planned on closing all four shops and moving into two shops in the new development where E.J’S used to be, a great plan which would result in less wages and half the rent and return us to some degree of profitability and enable us to get through the increasing trough of the low season.
This had the full support of the bank and all my business advisors, however the ANZ Bank removed the support two weeks ago based on its lack of confidence in Port in the next five to 10 years. We then appointed a liquidator and the rest is history. Every business is a gamble. In hindsight we gambled on Port, threw the dice, and lost. with council, government and community leaders to work towards a better outcome.
PDCC president Ken Dobbs said Doug and Wendy’s contributions would be sorely missed.
“Unfortunately they have become the latest victims of the very problems the MBS report highlighted,” he said.
“It is a tragedy the Port Douglas community has lost them.”
I am very proud of the Chamber of Commerce’s achievements and our plans we have all developed to support business and the community. To all the knockers I would like to challenge you to become involved and help get this beautiful town back on the path to recovery.
The MBS provides a road map for the future. We can follow a different path, as long as we all unite with a shared vision with one voice.
Despite all the negativity about Cairns Regional Council, I would like to congratulate and thank Julia Leu, Liz Collyer and other council staff on their efforts and dedication to improving the town.
I really hope you are able to obtain the funds to implement the much-needed Waterfront project, along with all the “low hanging fruit projects” we have been discussing over the past few months.
I wish to leave the town with a challenge. I have no confidence that Port is capable of turning around in the next 10 years.
Certainly the banks, my business advisors and the liquidator believe there is a lot more pain to come. Reversing the “tourist massification” identified in the MBS report so that Port will once again become a premium tourist destination will not happen within the next 10 years.
My challenge to Port Douglas is to prove me wrong. When we come back to Port in 10 years time I want people to say I was wrong. If not I’ll be booking a $50 a night room, eating take away, shopping in a “nothing over $5” shop. So please prove me wrong since this is not a very appealing thought.
We have met so many wonderful people in this beautiful town and have made lifelong friendships. We are richer for the experience and at least we can say we have lived life to the fullest and given it our best shot. Wendy and I would like to thank everyone for their friendship and support and we will maintain contact with many of you.
Gone: an empty Something Tropical