Helping main streets survive the focus of local conference

Business operators from across the region converged on Castlemaine on August 4 for Mainstreet Australia's one-day conference.
Business operators from across the region converged on Castlemaine on August 4 for Mainstreet Australia's one-day conference.

The survival of small businesses in regional main street precincts was the focus of a conference hosted by Mainstreet Australia in Castlemaine earlier this month.
With the support of Mount Alexander Shire Council and Business Mount Alexander, conference participants got to exchange experiences and hear from keynote speakers at the event.
Mainstreet Australia executive officer Elizabeth Joldeski said organisers were thrilled with the turnout.
“We did a metro conference and then a regional conference and we were thrilled with both,” Ms Joldeski said.
“We had a great turnout of about 70 attendees to Castlemaine and it was fantastic.
“We know that a lot of regional businesses have a lot of stresses and pressures, fighting the current covid wave and dealing with cost of living pressures as well.
“There’s real burnout and real stress but the conference was great because everyone was able to connect over these issues and come together to recognise that.
“So we talked about ways we could work together to grow our businesses.”
Ms Joldeski said Jace Tyrrell, CEO of New West End Company based in London, zoomed in and talked about a new type of structure called Business Improvement Districts.
“There are about 2000 of them around the world, in America, the UK and Canada,” she said.
“The model is that you get the backing of the landlords, in conjunction with the traders and the council and government, to combine funds and establish a coordinating entity to look at the needs of that district, be it infrastructure or marketing etc.
“Jace gave such great insight around how that model works, and it’s scalable down for regional towns too, so the audience was thrilled to hear about this model.
“It’s something we’re advocating for more widespread introduction around Australia.”
Ms Joldeski said another keynote speaker was Amanda Stevens, a consumer futurist, who talked about what consumers wanted in order to shop more locally, ethically and smartly.
“She said the ideal customer everyone should be targeting was about the age of 42 and she gave some compelling examples of successful customer service around the world.
“We had some panels in the afternoon looking at sustainability, including some local initiatives, and we talked about the ‘customer experience economy’ as well and what it means to really invite people into your store.”
Ms Joldeski said conference organisers had received strong follow-up from participants that had shown there was demand for more support for traders.
“We want to do more in the regions and we’re looking forward to rolling out some more tailored capacity building for traders in the future,” she said.
Business Mount Alexander treasurer, Jacqueline Brodie-Hanns, said BMA loved hearing from business communities from across the state about how they were responding to the challenges of attracting and retaining customers.
“It’s incredibly reassuring to know that you are not the only ones going through these challenges. And hearing from the regional communities was very encouraging as we share so many similarities,” Ms Brodie-Hanns said.

Angela Crawford
Angela Crawford is the editor of The Midland Express