Reminiscent of the “Customers! Customers!” scene in the Disney Pixar film Cars, a busload of out-of-town shoppers have created quite a buzz in a central western town.
The 49 travellers – who set out from Newcastle on a trip purely meant to inject funds into rural towns – spent almost $13,000 in just a few hours in Coonabarabran.
Being a Sunday morning, most of the businesses opened just for them – and trip organiser Anne-Marie Best said she was “stunned at how much they spent”.
“The pressure was on: we couldn’t let them down,” she said, laughing.
The weekend We Care Road Trip aimed to support a few small places affected by the drought.
The travellers spent almost $17,000, and another $10,000-plus was raised through seat sales and donations – most of that going to Need 4 Feed, Drought Angels, Aussie Helpers or Buy A Bale.
“There’s always the perception there’s a divide between country and city people – that side of the ranges and this side of the ranges – and I just wanted to show people out there that us city people do care,” Ms Best said.
The trip also took in Merriwa, Gulargambone and Willow Tree; the travellers only stopped in for a meal but still spent an average of about $1300 in each spot.
Coonabarabran was their overnight stop, where they spent up on accommodation, meals and shopping.
Traveller Michelle Burdekin said it was “a lovely little town: very picturesque with the Warrumbungles, and lovely wide roads”.
“I’m not really a shopper, so it was lovely to have everything open, no crowds to contend with, no parking to find,” she said.
“I just went with a few friends in mind for birthday and Christmas presents. I was very happy with my purchases. There was a great range – I think we were all surprised at just what was available.”
Business owners reported mixed results, but the common theme was a “great vibe” and a welcome boost.
We got the word there was a busload of people travelling around ... cashed up and wanting to spend.Bill Robinson
“We got the word there was a busload of people travelling around a few different country towns, cashed up and wanting to spend,” NewsXpress Coonabarabran owner Bill Robinson said.
“We were just happy to have them here: with retail being the way it is these days, we welcome any sales.”
Cathie Amiet of Jewels and Gifts said “some of the businesses probably did better than I did” but “it was great”.
“If only they’d come every day – oh, twice a week would probably do,” she joked.
“People were very nice and they spent money; I was happy.
“There was a great vibe. They were happy to be here and some said they were coming back [for another visit].
“They’ve just a ball and loved it.”