Demise of the co-op a nail in cof­fin for towns

South Western Times - - News - Billy Kerr

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.

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