Race for Christ­mas cash faces hand­i­cap

The West Australian - - NEWS - Liam Croy

Melbourne Cup day used to be the turn­ing point for Sam Hart and his col­leagues at Toy­world.

The race that stopped the na­tion would sig­nal the start of the Christ­mas shop­ping stam­pede.

But that was years ago now — and things have changed dra­mat­i­cally.

“With on­line com­ing in, we’ve taken a mas­sive hit from that,” Mr Hart said. “Not just be­cause of con­ve­nience but also be­cause they are able to of­fer a lower price — ob­vi­ously not hav­ing a lot of the over­heads that we have to look at.

“That’s been a mas­sive hit and then grad­u­ally, year af­ter year you just see the fig­ures slide.”

Mr Hart started work­ing at Toy­world Whit­ford City when he was 19.

The Whit­ford City store has since shut, along with sev­eral oth­ers. He said he had seen a “huge” amount of change in his 13 years with the Toy­world net­work.

The fes­tive rush that used to start af­ter the Melbourne Cup, has been re­duced to one or two weeks be­fore Christ­mas Day.

“When I first started work­ing here it was a com­pletely dif­fer­ent busi­ness,” Mr Hart said.

“Toys were great back then. Re­ally pop­u­lar.”

Mr Hart said there might be a small mea­sure of re­lief this year be­cause Toys ‘R’ Us had folded.

But it would be a hol­low vic­tory to ben­e­fit from an­other toy com­pany’s demise.

He said lo­cal re­tail­ers could of­fer re­as­sur­ances about the qual­ity of prod­ucts and a level of ser­vice not avail­able on­line.

“We’re here to help. We know what we’re talk­ing about,” Mr Hart said.

“Come in if you’re look­ing for gifts. We’re happy to give ideas and that sort of thing.

“We’ll gift wrap for you. Hell, I’ll walk your stuff out the door to your car.”

In his mind, the big­gest in­cen­tive for fam­i­lies to shop lo­cally was keep­ing money and jobs in WA.

“Gen­er­ally the peo­ple who own (re­tail stores), they’re just nor­mal peo­ple,” Mr Hart said. “You’re not giv­ing your money to these big com­pa­nies that are mostly owned over­seas.

“You’re help­ing fam­i­lies sur­vive, pay for their kids to go to school and keep a roof over their head.”

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