Demise of the co-op a nail in coffin for towns
THOSE most venerable of country institutions the local co-op which have been at the heart of their communities are under the pump.
These places, just like pubs, are largely taken for granted and it is just accepted that every day they will open their doors. However, for many the increase in locals shopping out of town is making their economics decidedly unattractive.
These places have been a part of the West Australian bush for over 100 years and their business model of local ownership and shared profits has always benefited the communities they operate in.
They cannot match the big buying power of the supermarket chains but their local branding and ownership has enabled them to survive.
Their survival and indeed their reliance on local patronage is critical but like so many things in the bush, external forces may well see the demise of the local co-op which, if allowed to happen, has the potential to send whole towns into a downward spiral.
Take for example farmers who in the main are the major shareholders in co-ops. These people have for generations sent their children away to school and in many instances to private schools. This is a generational thing albeit an expensive generational thing.
Once upon a time the kids only left to go to Year 11 and 12 but now these kids are leaving their town at the end of Year 6. This alone takes a lot out of small towns in terms of their economics and indeed their capacity to field sporting teams and a multitude of other child-orientated activities.
Of course, once the kids are away, mum and dad are required to visit to see the kids and increasingly we find more families actually shifting to the city and dad becoming a drive-in drive-out farmer.
What has this got to do with the demise of the local co-op you may ask? Lots, because mum and dad no longer do their shopping in town and even if they still live in town, when they go to visit the kids which is most weekends, they will often do their big shopping on the way out of the city. Each time this happens, places like the co-op miss out on a couple of hundred dollars and sadly those dollars add up.
The bottom line is that when this tipping point is reached, the co-op closes and when it does that is a huge nail in the coffin of the town that it closes in.