Ararat business confidence powers through pandemic

Ararat’s economy continues to show incredible resilience to the pandemic as office and retail occupancy rates are on the rise.

Findings from the latest Ararat Rural City Council Occupancy Survey reveals an uplift in business confidence despite the global pandemic with vacancy rates lower than they were a year ago.

Ararat CBD Business Occupancy Survey

January 2019

June 2020

September 2020

January 2021

Vacancy Rate

7.3%

10.5%

7.9%

5.9%

Occupancy rate

92.7%

89.5%

92.1%

94.1%

Ararat Rural City Council CEO Dr Tim Harrison welcomed the survey results and saying everyone in the community deserved credit for their commitment to work together and support local businesses.

“From the outset of the health crisis, the Ararat community put its hands up to say – we’re going to support each other and come back stronger together,” Dr Harrison said.

“While the coronavirus is a new threat to all of us, facing regular challenges such as fire, flood and drought are not.

“This determination to face any curve balls that are thrown at us defines the attitude of rural people to accept the challenge and just get on with the job.

“It’s extremely pleasing to be part of a community that has taken this issue seriously, not only to protect the health of each of those around us but also to back in our community and livelihoods.

“While we’ve seen Melbourne’s retail sector in freefall, Ararat’s CBD is growing with businesses emerging and expanding.

“This business growth has helped underpin a falling local unemployment rate to 4.19% and a booming real estate market, further demonstrating that Ararat is open for business.”

Ararat locals Craig and Nai Otte identified the opportunity to open a new Asian grocery store in Ararat, recognising Ararat’s increasing inclusiveness and cultural diversity.

What could not have been anticipated was the massive demand for cultural produce not just in Ararat but across western Victoria.

“We opened our Asian grocery store at the end of October last year. In the space of a couple of months, customer demand to order in specialised products and produce meant we outgrew the store and quickly realised we needed more shelf and storage space,’ Mr Otte said.

“With over 2,000 products on offer, we found a retail space triple the size of the original store and decided to expand.

“House of Nai offers a wide range of speciality Asian goods from Japan, Taiwan, India – the list goes on. If we don’t stock a particular product, we’re more than happy to source the item and order it in for you.

“For those who live in the local area and can’t easily visit the store in-person, we’ve started offering a free home delivery service for large orders.

“We are overwhelmed and grateful for the local community’s support. We even have customers travelling from Stawell, Beaufort and even from Warrnambool to visit our shop.

“Opening a business is a challenge at the best of times, let alone doing so during the pandemic. For those exploring the idea of opening their own business, I would recommend doing your research – evaluate costs associated with the retail space, transportation and customer demand.

“The team at Council have been phenomenal. From the very start, they supported our vision and guided us along the journey in ensuring our business was compliant and had a COVIDSafe Plan before opening.

“They even guided us through the application for a Retail Façade Improvement Grant which we appreciate.”

Dr Harrison added that Council has no plans to stop the momentum that is running its way.

“We identified early on during the pandemic that there was an accelerated shift of people from metropolitan Melbourne which would rapidly increase migration to the regions,” Dr Harrison said.

“Our recent success to attract defining local projects shows it’s a great time to invest in Ararat.

“The partnership with Federation University Australia to deliver the Ararat Jobs and Technology Precinct is a great example of a commitment to transform and grow the local economy.

“We’re bringing together research excellence and our local industries to drive local innovation and build the future economy.

“Council is also committed to improving our recreation, tourism and cultural opportunities, unlocking access to technology advancements, as well as attracting investment to construct much needed new housing.

“Ararat offers great employment opportunities, housing affordability, a work/life balance and a regional lifestyle for those that are keen to come and be a part of our community.”

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