Who should we take notice of?
It's hard to be absolutely certain, but my instinct tells me that many businesses in Orange are currently experiencing a very slow period, with sales well down on what they may need.
I don't want to be accused of being a doomsdayer, but I also don't to bury my head in the sand if or kid myself that everything is rosy when it's not. For me the signs are there and as a business owner, I'm watching things very closely and ready to make changes if needed. My view of what is happening can be likened to the frog in the saucepan scenario. It says that if you throw a frog into a saucepan of boiling water, it'll jump straight back out. If you put a frog into a saucepan of cold water and heat it slowly, the frog will ultimately die, because it didn't realise what was slowing killing it. I feel business in Orange may be like that frog, the slowing is happening, but in a way that only astute business owners realise.
It's on that note, that I'd again like to try and point those who have the power to do something about it, in the right direction, something me and those who think like me, still seem unable to do. This time I'm going to take a different approach, one in the form of a Q & A, asking different types of people hypothetically, what they would do in such circumstances.
The question I'd put to these "people" is -
"If spending generally, right across Orange is actually dropping, and this trend has the potential to do real harm to our economy, harm which will ultimately lead to more businesses closing their doors and more people losing their jobs, what would you suggest we do as a City to avoid that?"
An accountant may say, it's time to cut or lower your overheads or expenses. Offset your dwindling sales by cutting spending. You should look at cutting back staff hours, reduce or cut your advertising, and any other costs where you feel you can cut back.
A Councillor may say, if we fix the roads and do up the main street, more people will come here.
A tourism operator may say we need to market the region better not just the City.
A public servant may say, we need to get a city-based consultant to do a review and tell us what we need to do.
A business chamber may say, business owners just must rethink what they're doing to meet the challenges of online shopping etc., it's up to the individual business to work smarter.
A person in the street may say, it's simple, the shopping in the town down the road is just so much better than here. We need more big stores and more variety if we want people to come and shop here.
A highly-regarded and successful business owner may say, if I want to get anything done, I just get on with it and do it myself. If I see a drop in my customer numbers, I just look at ways to replace them with others or new ones. If every business did the same thing and did it well, we wouldn't have a problem, other towns in the area might however.
A skilled marketing person may say, a place like Orange will never stop people shopping online or even going out of town to shop, but like the successful businessman mentioned above, the trick is to replace lost customers with new ones. The only way to do that sufficiently in a place like Orange is 1) to build an attraction that will bring an extra 50,000, 100,000 or 200,000 people here each year and/or 2) spend $1 million dollars a year advertising reasons for people within 200 ks of Orange to come here for shopping, professional services, entertainment, sport, medical reasons etc., far more often than they do now. Serious and specifically targeted advertising is the key.
So, if the frog analogy proved to be right, who should we take notice of to turn things around?
Bob's article "Who should we take notice of" - July 12th is of interest to me on a number of fronts. I have only resided in Orange for less that two years and these are my initial observations.
1. The massive housing boom;
2. The large number of 'For Sale' signs (promptly followed by a "Sold" sign on residential properties within a small radius of Cook Park; and
3. The large number of "For Lease" signs on commercial properties.
It is the last point that reminds me of a seminar I attended many years ago in Hobart. The guest was Barry Jones (and I confess to attending to see in person the Australian icon of my childhood, after all, who didn't watch "Pick a Box"?). His presentation related to employment. His comment, inter alia, that has remained with me to this day was along the lines of "If a person is a maker of men's hats and men no longer wear hats, does the "hatter" just shut up shop, do they move to an area where men do wear hats, or do they re-invent themselves in their own community?"
Based on this, I believe Bob's analogy of the frog is the most pertinent. What questions do the business people of this town actually ask themselves about the future of the business?"