Closures ‘a sign of the times’

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If shoppers do not support local retailers, more main street businesses will be forced to close, Camerons director Warren Park warns.

Camerons clothing stores in Oamaru, Waimate and Timaru, as well as Timaru’s Evolv Clothing, all shut their doors for the last time at 5pm on Tuesday, after nearly 100 years in business.

Camerons had been operating in Oamaru for 50 years.

All shops, not only apparel, but across the board, were critical to the make up of a town, Mr Park said.

‘‘They give individuality,’’ he said.

‘‘They’re always first to give back in terms of sponsorship.

‘‘It leaves such a void when they go and, in this day and age, the shops can remain empty for quite some time before they’re filled up again.’’

Shop owners were doing all they could to keep operating, including down-sizing and reducing hours, he said.

‘‘But it gets to a point where it just doesn’t become sustainable — then you end up with another empty shop.’’

The knock-on effect was less foot-fall for the remaining shops, and less atmosphere in the town.

‘‘If there’s less choice in the town, it makes it easier for people to make the decision to go out of town.’’

Camerons began in Timaru in 1924, and Mr Park became a director, along with Wendy Collings, after taking over from Jeff Morrison, the son of one of the original owners, in 2005.

The problems for the business, which led to its closure, had been cumulative. There were continuous issues with getting stock, an increase in all costs, and deliveries were being held up, Mr Park said.

‘‘Combined with the Omicron outbreak, it came about that a lot of our demographic — particularly in Timaru — were just opting to stay at home, rather than getting out and shopping.’’

Thirteen full-time staff had lost their jobs across all the stores.

Oamaru store manager Karen Lord, who had been stuck at home isolating as a close contact, was upset she could not be there to help with the shop’s closing down sale, and final days of operation. She mostly felt sadness at news of the closure.

‘‘We’ve put a lot of our lives into Camerons.’’

Mrs Lord had worked for the company off and on for 25 years, she said.

‘‘It’s been a pleasure working for Wendy and Warren.

‘‘It’s just a sign of the times.’’

She and her Oamaru colleague, Vivian Munro-Bisschops, were now both looking for work.

Mrs Munro-Bisschops said she was ‘‘really sad for us, and gutted for Oamaru’’.

The announcement was quite sudden, and she said they were still in a bit of shock.

Mr Park said after trading ended on Tuesday, the plan was to consolidate all remaining stock into one shop, have a big clean up of the other stores, and then look for a job and start again.

The feeling in the Timaru store on the last day of trading was ‘‘reasonably upbeat’’.

‘‘There’s just been some awesome well-wishers,’’ he said.

‘‘There’s been tears and hugs and flowers and chocolates. Just people commenting they’ve got their hire suits from us for their weddings, and they’ve gone on to retire, and their children have grown up and bought their [children’s] school uniforms from us.

‘‘It’s that whole connection, that inter-generational connection, you know, with people, for a long, long time.’’

Mr Park offered a ‘‘heartfelt thanks’’ to the public of Oamaru, Waimate and Timaru ‘‘for supporting us for close to a century’’.