Couple close three shops in Woodville

Suzie Johnson and her husband, Kiwi Johnson, when the Woodville shops opened in 2011.
WARWICK SMITH/STUFF

Suzie Johnson and her husband, Kiwi Johnson, when the Woodville shops opened in 2011.

Woodville's string of Oosh stores will close as a 60 per cent drop in profits forces the business' owners out of town.

Oosh La La, For Frocks Sake and the Oosh gallery will close permanently on August 21.

Owner Suzie Johnson said business was unsustainable since the Manawatu Gorge closed after a large slip in April, causing a significant drop in traffic travelling through the township.

Initially, Suzie Johnson and her husband Kiwi Johnson thought they could battle through it, but when the couple heard the gorge would be closed indefinitely in July, they felt they had no choice but to close. 

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The decision had come after many tears and sleepless nights as Suzie Johnson contemplated the closure of the stores, which opened in 2011. 

"It's not a decision that we've made lightly."

If the Government had offered a financial hardship package to Woodville businesses they may have been able to hold on to their stores, she said. But, there was no help on the horizon and their finances are dwindling.

In July, Transport Minister Simon Bridges announced that the Government would choose a permanent alternative route to the gorge by December 2017, but Bridges said he did not know where that route would go. 

Kiwi Johnson said the uncertainty of the new route's location and whether it would be finished within three years as promised left them with little assurance business would improve.

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He expected more businesses to follow suit.

"I suspect we will be the start of the tidal wave."

The couple owned the building in Woodville and also bought a house there in 2011, just before another large slip closed gorge for 14 months.

The difference then was that the road was going to reopen, he said. 

The couple have 10 stores across the central North Island, and chose to open in small towns to encourage people to visit smaller communities in New Zealand, Suzie Johnson said. 

The closure of the stores meant six women living near Woodville would lose their jobs.

"It's terrible. They are really gutted. I'm gutted."

The couple are also closing their Shannon gallery after a downturn in business, but the clothing stores in the town will remain open.

The Johnsons are trying to sell their properties in Woodville but they are not ruling out a return once business picks up there again. 

The also have stores in Napier, New Plymouth, Te Awamutu and Cambridge that will remain open. 

 

 

 

 - Stuff

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