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Open for business . . . Soul Surf and Skate owner Jeremy Holding says there are many positives to owning a retail store in Oamaru. PHOTO: GUS PATTERSON

Consumers might not always see the important flow-on benefits of shopping locally, a local business owner says.

Responding to last week’s Oamaru Mail story about the number of empty shops on Oamaru’s main street, Waitaki District councillor and Soul Surf and Skate owner Jeremy Holding said while price was always important to shoppers, supporting local businesses had effects on the community which might not be obvious at first.

“We try and sponsor local events here – [and] we think that by supporting the community, they will support us,” he said.

“It could be that supporting a local business means that a teenager has an after-school job, or an event gets off the ground with some sponsorship.”

He said retailers were facing challenges and the problems were not limited to Oamaru.

“There is no doubt it is getting harder with online competition, and it isn’t as simple as going online ourselves,” he said.

“By doing that, we have to compete with big brands, and even ones we stock ourselves.”

In the 16 years Mr Holding had owned Soul Surf and Skate, he said he had noticed the need to augment the core business of retail with other offerings.

“We offer surf lessons, board hire and have a workshop,” he said.

“There is a skateboard ramp upstairs – it is about providing the customer with an experience they can’t necessarily get online.

“We are also open seven days, but that might not be viable for every business.”

He said there were many positive reasons to own a retail business in Oamaru.

“It’s a good lifestyle here, a good place to own a business and have a family,” he said.

Otago Chamber of Commerce North Otago advisory chairman Stephen Halliwell said there were a lot of discussions being held across the community about addressing the issue of empty shops on Oamaru’s main street – and that was a positive thing.

“The council has done some great work in the harbour area and [business] park at the North End, and the time is coming to start thinking about what will happen in the central business district,” he said.