The front page of the NewsMail on February 24, 1999.
The front page of the NewsMail on February 24, 1999. Crystal Jones

The story that made front page this day 20 years ago

BUNDABERG 20 years ago. What was making the news?

The front page story back then echoed the sentiments of recent news stories focusing on the plight of small businesses in the CBD.

The headline simply read "small shops dying”.

At the time, on February 24, 1999, Maryborough Street Foodstore owner Tom Powell had told the NewsMail that every employee of a large chain store such as Coles or Woolworths cost 1.7 jobs in smaller stores.

According to Mr Powell, the the market share of the major chains had jumped from 40 per cent in 1975 to 80 per cent in 1997. Mr Powell believed that the market share in Bundaberg was closer to 90 per cent.

In 2017-2018, Woolworths, Coles, Aldi and Metcash held a combined 84.1 per cent of market share nationally.

Mr Powell had blamed the death of many small convenience stores on extended trading hours for large retailers.

Even bread and milk sales meant the world to small businesses, Mr Powell had pointed out.

The Chamber of Commerce commented in 1999 that a big part of the problem was people not walking to the store but driving their car to a major outlet and getting everything they wanted under one roof.

Former shop owner Gwen Coulthard also talked to the NewsMail about the steep decline for small business.

When she'd first opened her Dunn Rd convenience store in the '60s, things had been very different.

"When we first opened, I suppose there was a little shop on every corner,” she said.

"Butchers for meat, bakers for bread etc, but now you can get all those things from the big stores and slowly the small businesses are disappearing.”

Despite offering services such as free home delivery, telephone orders and personal customer service, Mrs Coulthard, a councillor in 1999, had to give up on the retail world.

"I had to get out more or less because I could see it was getting worse and worse,” she told the NewsMail in '99.



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