Local support key to business success

SUCCESS STORY: Michael Robinson of Hungerford Meat Company has been happy with the local support he's received. Picture: SUPPLIED.
SUCCESS STORY: Michael Robinson of Hungerford Meat Company has been happy with the local support he's received. Picture: SUPPLIED.

The heartening news, among a litany of bad news, is the strong support on the ground from people supporting local businesses in the area through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Their local spending is helping businesses transition back to success.

Locally, typical of small communities throughout the area, Branxton is made up of two clubs, one hotel, an IGA supermarket and a plethora of small businesses providing goods and services that generally mean locals do not have to leave the area to get what they need.

"The worst affected businesses were the hotel, clubs, beauty salon and local newspaper. They were closed but, thankfully, are now back in business," Central Hunter Business Chamber president Brett Wild said.

While COVID-19 has hurt some businesses, Mr Wild reports some have fared better through the crisis.

"The chemist, supermarket, pet shop and butchery have been doing well but the social distancing and maximum numbers has bought with it, in some cases, expensive measures to ensure that they are compliant with the current regulations," he said.

"A surprise to me came after speaking to the operators of the Hungerford Meat Company, the local butcher, who to a great degree have actually increased their business during the current medical crisis."

Michael Robinson, proprietor of the Hungerford Meat Company, said that the business employs 11 mostly local workers, all of whom have kept their jobs. They do all preparation onsite and are open six days a week.

"We are lucky to have the coal mining industry not skip a beat and the construction going on at the new commercial centre at Huntlee. Even though a local mine, Wambo, has stood down 200 it has still yet to make an impact here in town," Mr Robinson said.

"Initially we saw panic buying then a plateau until the June long weekend where our business increased remarkably. That was due to the influx of tourists to wine country and the re-opening of all tourist facilities.

"Our wholesale business was badly affected with the closing of the restaurants but they are now going full steam ahead.

Picture: SUPPLIED.

Picture: SUPPLIED.

"Another factor with our business was the closing of restaurants which saw families doing a lot more cooking at home.

"I would also like to say that our very valued customers adapted very quickly to social distancing and COVID hygiene, and are very supportive and in some instances, very patient."

Sue Mitchell, Manager of the Branxton IGA, agreed.

"The support from locals has been amazing," she said.

"People have been very understanding, patient and even offering to help and saying lots of positive stuff.

"People who might normally do their shopping at the bigger supermarkets have been coming in.

"That's been great because they see we have much more variety and niche local products than they thought."

Mr Wild said that the Chamber has had great support from Cessnock Council which has got behind stimulus put forward by the chamber and council's economics resources unit.

"The latest initiative was the 'Support Local - Branxton' signs that were erected some time ago," he said.

"The initiative drives home the message that local buying supports local jobs and makes the community stronger by helping to keep money circulating in the region.

"We know that a lot of local businesses have been severely impacted and we, the business chamber, would hope that the recovery is quick and relatively painless."