Amazon expands to Australia, but Tamworth retailers say it's business as usual in Christmas rush

CHRISTMAS: The Lemon House's Madison Morris and Kathy Keating have extended their opening hours leading up to Christmas. Photo: Peter Hardin
CHRISTMAS: The Lemon House's Madison Morris and Kathy Keating have extended their opening hours leading up to Christmas. Photo: Peter Hardin

RESIDENTS are being urged to shop local this Christmas on the back of retail giant Amazon launching in Australia on Tuesday.

Though the expansion of US online giant Amazon in Australia is expected to be a game-changer in the country's retail landscape – with one Amazon executive declaring it would “destroy the retail environment in Australia" – established local retailers are adamant face-to-face customer service wins out.

The Lemon House owner Kathy Keating said business was better than ever – and hadn’t “felt the need” to offer internet shopping.

“We just really concentrate on customer service, and we get so much repeat business,” she said.

RUSH HOUR: The Lemon House owner Kathy Keating. Photo: Peter Hardin

RUSH HOUR: The Lemon House owner Kathy Keating. Photo: Peter Hardin

“With free gift wrapping, people can come in and do the whole lot in one hit.”

In the lead up to Christmas, the business has extended its opening hours to include Sundays, along with other retailers lining the northern end of Peel Street.

“(Business) has been fantastic, we’ve been absolutely flat out,” Ms Keating said.

“Country people like to support local businesses, probably more than in the city.”

Magic Pudding owner Sara Winston-Smith shared the sentiment.

“Amazon doesn’t affect us at all,” she said.

“Customer service always wins out. 

“That’s more important to us – to be able to support the customer before and after the purchase, which Amazon can’t.”

While other retailers across the country are on the brink of closing their doors – including Millers, Katies, Autograph, Crossroads, City Chic and Rivers after retail group Specialty Fashion vowed to close hundreds of under-performing stores in an attempt to revive the company's fortunes last month – private business owners aren’t feeling the heat.

While Tamworth fashion retailer The Other Shop is now shipping worldwide with its internet store, owner Eifla Hardman said the bricks-and-mortar store still had its place.

“Local business needs to up the ante to accommodate for customers like zipPay, after pay,” she said.

“We have a huge online store. It’s good to have both.”

The retailer averages up to 350 online orders a week – both overseas and in Australia.

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New England North West Business Chamber manager Joe Townsend called on locals to support small businesses to help build a community, strengthen the economy, and ensuring choice and diversity.

“Of course we usually choose to do business where we perceive the best value for our time and money,” Mr Townsend said.

“But in an age where we are bombarded with thousands of corporate advertisements daily, perceptions may differ widely from reality.

“Imagine the difference it would make to our communities if we all made the conscious effort to support our local businesses, producers and suppliers,” he said.

It comes after Australia Post launched its latest program, Shipster, offering free Christmas shipping on eligible purchases at more than 50 of Australia’s biggest online stores.