Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Tough retail conditions force closure

Saddles and Swags shop owner says Cobram retail conditions were tough enough without internet shopping, a low river and fishing regulations.

ROB HENSON June 13, 2014 3:37am

Closing down: Saddles and Swags owner Paul Meddings is shutting shop in a "tough" retail climate.

A shopowner says ‘‘very tough’’ retail conditions in the Cobram area have led him to close down.

Paul and Debbie Meddings intend to close Saddles and Swags after six years serving horseriders and outdoor enthusiasts.

Before entering retail, Mr Meddings was a self-employed floor sander for 30 years, with the outdoors supplies store a long-held dream.

‘‘It was to get away from all the dust and the fumes and take it a bit easier,’’ he said.

The store’s patronage was largely seasonal, with campers and fishers in the summer, and horseriding events in winter giving sales a boost.

Regular customers, often campers from around Melbourne, would come in for an annual catch-up, inviting Paul down to the river.

‘‘I liked that part of it,’’ Mr Meddings said.

He said closing was ‘‘not something we want to do, but we don’t have a choice really.’’

Mr Meddings said the internet was the biggest challenge for local ‘‘bricks and mortar’’ retailers, alongside tough economic times.

‘‘Things are getting tougher for people, they haven’t got the money to throw around like they used to,’’ he said.

Mr Meddings also said the Murray River level being lowered before key holiday periods did not help his business.

‘‘In the fishing game, the river’s so low, that absolutely killed Easter for us.

‘‘Half of them (visiting anglers) are saying they won’t be coming back because they’re sick of it.’’

Mr Meddings said since the river had been lowered campers had all but abandoned local rivers.

‘‘They’re saving the water for the irrigation, which is fine, but they didn’t need to go that low, down to nothing.

‘‘There’s hardly a camper out there since Easter, they’ve all gone home.’’

Mr Meddings also said ‘‘most people shop at Shepparton’’ for a bigger range of products and services.

‘‘The shops there have a bit of everything, we can’t do that. I wouldn’t say they’re cheaper, we just can’t offer as much stock.’’

He also said cray fishing bag limits had been reduced from five per day to two per day, leading to less visitors for the May-to-August open season.

But it seems fishing is still quite popular, as cut-price lures have been one of the biggest sellers in the store’s closing down sale.

A closing date has not been confirmed as the owners hope to sell as much stock as possible.

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