PARTLY due to the wet weather and partly due to more people returning to work after the Christmas-New Year holiday peak, business noticeably quietened down around the district last week.
However compared to last year’s activities, the degree of the change was variable depending on the location and outlet.
At Foster IGA Supermarket, Frank McLauchlan reported that sales were 10% up on the same time last year but “could not compare to the previous two weeks” which his son-in-law Chris Bettles had described as “phenomenally busy”.
Joe Bucello of Foster Foodworks Supermarket noted that favourite product lines sought by customers had changed from chips and drinks to cooler weather treats such as crumpets, raisin bread and chocolate.
“After a very busy Monday, business certainly dropped off and although it was still substantially busier than a normal week, we would have been five per cent or more down on the same week last year,” he estimated.
Mr. Bucello firmly believes that weather has a psychological influence on buying patterns and observed that “while people were still buying, they weren’t spending in hot weather mode and were consequently buying a smaller basket of goods.”
While casual staff hours were mostly retained, staff had time to catch up on jobs that are often temporarily put aside in the busiest times when serving customers and restocking shelves is paramount.
Chi Keung Chiu at Foster Pharmacy said lines such as sunscreen, insect bite soothers (especially for sandfly bites), hayfever treatments and sunglasses were still selling very well to visitors although there were some lulls in the stream of customers this week instead of a constant flow.
In Ando’s Bakery, Tracey Anderson said that most customers were able to get a seat at a table indoors last week which they were not able to do during the previous two weeks.
Apart from being generally quieter, she noted that business was also not cranking up with customers until much later in the morning.
With her wholesale orders dropping off 50% during the week compared to the fortnight beforehand, she has been obliged to reduce the hours of her casual staff roster.
Down Main Street at Prom Meats, John Davies said that his business was not using casuals like it usually did at this time of year and he expected that “the weather would have to pick up dramatically before people came back to the area like a normal January”.
On the other hand, he said the family’s accommodation business was “ticking over nicely because any vacancies were snapped up by people preferring roofed accommodation to camping.”
AROUND CORNER INLET
Over at Fish Creek Roadhouse, Jan Hamilton said that business had “naturally dropped off a little as more people returned to work” but that it “varied by the day and was still very busy, which was standard for January.”
Closer to Wilsons Promontory at Yanakie Roadhouse, Michael Heal was sure that business was “up on last year regardless but not the frantic peak of the New Year week when the sun came out and we were under the pump.”
He recalled the Christmas to New Year week as “steady” and last week as “a slow slide down and leveling out that was weather driven”.
Overall, he said the store had experienced better years but would not be closely analysing its patterns until the school holidays finished as staff simply didn’t have the time to do anything beyond keeping up with immediate customer service.
“We’re travelling well because we have a varied customer base,” he opined.
“While business from the day visitation to the Prom varies with the weather, we still benefit from the locals, the roofed accommodation in Yanakie, and the two caravan parks which are not primarily tent-based like the Tidal River camping ground.
He added, “We’re also seeing a lot of Europeans in vans at the moment and I think it is because they are avoiding the flooded areas [Queensland, New South Wales and parts of Victoria] in their travels.”
With the wet weather, Foster Visitor Information Centre was quite busy as people looked for alternatives to beach visits.
With 696 walk-in visitors to the centre from Monday January 10 to Sunday January 16, visitation was up by 10 per cent on the equivalent week in 2010.
By comparison, visitation during the same week was 21% down to 443 inquiries on last year’s figures at Korumburra Visitor Information Centre.
Foster VIC is staffed by paid professional customer service officers supported by rostered volunteers.
At Wilsons Promontory National Park, Customer Service Manager Scott Griggs agreed that “weather was the largely influencing factor” affecting day visitor numbers to the park.
“On a fine day – such as Monday January 10 – we’re experiencing 650 to 700 visitors per day, but over the week from the 10th to the 17th of January, we had 1,357 visitors, [a 35% drop] compared to the equivalent week in 2010 when 2,075 day visitors came to the park.”
With all camp sites and roofed accommodation at the Prom booked out, the day visitor flow to the area’s iconic attraction makes a difference to district businesses, with Scott remarking that “only a trickle” of campers left the park early due to the rain.