RETAIL JOBS FLEE TOWN DEFEAT OF THE HIGH STREET
THOUSANDS of jobs have been lost in regional Queensland as struggling retailers shut up shop.
Empty high street stores are a common sight in towns and cities around the state as belt-tightening by consumers, high overheads, competition from big national chains and new technology all take their toll.
New analysis of industry trends data shows that while employment levels in sectors such as hospitality and healthcare are rising fast, the number of people working in retail is shrinking.
“Over the past four years, retail employment in Greater Brisbane has grown by just 6500 – which is slow itself – but the dramatic impact can be seen in the rest of the state where the number has fallen 15,600,’’ economist Pete Faulkner of North Queensland-based Conus Consultancy Services said.
“The story across the re- gions is not, of course, uniform but it is the case that almost every region has seen a reduction in retail sector jobs since 2013.’’
The rapid decline in what has traditionally been one of the major job-providers in smaller centres is causing concern, including the effect on opportunities for young people as youth unemployment is over 20 per cent in some areas.
“A third of our employees are youth,” National Retail Association CEO Dominique Lamb said.
“A lot of work is being done to get these kids into work (in other jobs) by developing transferable skills.
“We do know the regions have been struggling.”
In areas affected by the downturn in mining construction and manufacturing – such as Townsville, Mackay and Gladstone – people had left town and others had re- duced spending, Ms Lamb said.
Damage and flooding caused by natural disasters – mostly recently Cyclone Debbie – had also impacted on regions including the Whitsundays and Rockhampton.
Gladstone’s acting mayor Chris Trevor said the city had lots of f emptyt shops.hops
“Food outlets, clothing, general supplies. It’s major chains, too. We’re having a silent recession up here.”
High power bills were piling on the pressure. on top of a general economic malaise.
“People just can’t go on and they close the doors.’’