There is an interesting dichotomy in Cardinia, and it’s on clear display in Pakenham. On the one hand, there are calls for K-Mart or other big name big businesses – on the other, the hoarse cries to support local, small businesses. Truth be told, as much as I advocate for supporting small business, the inescapable fact of lower prices with big business is hard to say no to.
Don’t get me wrong – there are many small businesses out there thriving; one of the places they are not is the Main Street of Pakenham. Custom is down for most, and there’s no arguing the numbers. The reasons behind it are a bit harder to pin down, but the same ones figure prominently where-ever you go. Big business providing convenience and prices that small business can’t is right up there with them. A lack of innovation in the face of adversity has been touted, as well; while it is maybe not so innovative anymore, having an online presence has not been a priority for many.The traditional advantages of a small business – personal connections to their customers, being quicker to respond to changing conditions and so on – are no longer enough to attract consumers away from the one-stop-shop 5 minutes from home that can be seen in almost every Estate in Pakenham.
So what does it mean? Will Pakenham Main Street, and other shopping areas like it throughout the Shire, become abandoned wastelands of vacant shops, broken windows, graffiti and tumbleweed… only to be rebuilt by unscrupulous developers looking for a quick buck and to continue the cycle? (You can have a look at Council’s ideas by clicking on this link). Many of the traders in Main Street are determined that this won’t happen; several having invested decades into their businesses, and in the new year, the recently reformed Pakenham Business Group will begin working on making sure it does not. I can’t wait for that.In the meantime, is there a more broad, long-term solution to making small business more appealing to us as consumers, and more competitive with the big guys?
Well, yes. The real question is, is who is prepared to make the effort?Groups like the Lang Lang Business Group and the reforming Pakenham Business Group will be essential, because it will take a concerted, communal effort to make it happen.
If you run a business, join one and be an active part of it. (There’s a list at the end of this article – feel free to let me know if there are any I’ve missed). Remember – united we stand, divided we fall!
If you’re a consumer or customer, stop and think for a moment – are you really that pressed for time and money? No judgement if you are – I can certainly relate.
As a small business owner, explore what (else) you could do – by yourself or with other like-minded owners – to encourage people to come your way.
As a consumer, be mindful and educated about where we spend our time and money, and the wider effects it has on the entire community.
Support each other. With business. With advice. With ideas. With referrals. Your neighbour is your lifeblood.
Be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things, even if they’re not your own ideas, or the way you’ve been doing it for the last X years
Be digitally active – get a website, or upgrade/renew it, be present and active on Social Media
For traders in the Main Street of Pakenham, if you haven’t already, you can sign up here.