Town hopes for booster in open day

Jodie Forbes prepares for the Winton Open Day outside the new premises of her clothes shop, The Local.
Jodie Forbes prepares for the Winton Open Day outside the new premises of her clothes shop, The Local.

Winton shops are getting ready for the town's annual open day, hoping it will provide some impetus for the local economy in the face of job losses and uncertainty in Southland's key industries.

Part of the town's main street will be closed for Sunday's event, with stores open and market stalls selling produce. There will be entertainment from musicians as well as fundraising.

Bad economic news to hit Southland in the last two months include big job losses at the Blue Sky Meats and Alliance Mataura meatworks and the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter.

Winton Business Association president Maria Scammel said the wider New Zealand economy was struggling but Winton was picking up as the summer contracting season began.

The open day was a chance to give retail in the town a boost, she said.

"It gets people into a good commercial atmosphere."

Despite the bad news of the last quarter, Winton was in contrast to other smaller towns where business was declining, she said. While there were empty stores in the main street, some had recently been filled by expanding local retail businesses such as Jodie Forbes' The Local clothes store, which had moved into a building empty for three or more years.

"It's in better shape than it was a couple of years ago. Three businesses have just changed premises, things like that . . . we've still got these empty shops but things are picking up," Mrs Scammel said.

Winton was lucky to still have a diverse agricultural economy in surrounding areas, she said, with dairying and beef and lamb strength. A decline in either sector was balanced by success in the other.

Since she and her husband, Brent, started their Honda retail business 18 years ago the dairy sector had grown hugely, changing the way the business and wider economy worked.

Mrs Forbes said she had been planning to move The Local for the better part of 18 months and finally made the move six weeks ago.

The new store has more retail space and the building is owned by her sister, Leeann Souter.

The Southland Times