Business

Why some Canberra retailers are staying open for longer over the holidays

Canberra's exodus has begun, and through much of the city not a creature is stirring.

But that is not the case at bustling inner-north cafes where friends enjoy pre-Christmas coffees, and at fresh food hubs where families rush to stock up for feasts.

Canberra Business Chamber CEO Robyn Hendry said retailers who usually closed for the Christmas and New Year break had opted to stay open this year.

"Some retailers are saying they don't want to risk losing their valued clients to their competition during a closure period," Ms Hendry said.

"So they're essentially staying open as a client service motive, even though they're a little uncertain about the volume of business."

Fresh food stores were buzzing on Sunday.

The decision for businesses to forego their hard-earned break and trade through the season comes off the back of a sluggish year for retail sales.

But Ms Hendry said for many, the move did not come without risk.

"Some retailers are saying they don't want to risk losing their valued clients to their competition during a closure period," she said.

"So they're essentially staying open as a client service motive, even though they're a little uncertain about the volume of business."

Owner of Braddon health store Naked Foods, Vashti Biffanti, said she had heard from several businesses that were extending hours to compensate for a slow year of trading.

But her reasoning for staying open every non-public holiday this year was quite the opposite.

Naked Foods staff member Sophie Dumaresq stand inside the health store

She will be welcoming customers between Christmas and New Years for the first time since the store was born in 2015.

"We had quite a few [customers] asking if we would be open during the Christmas period so we decided to so we could service our community," Ms Biffanti said.

"There are retailers that have commented about it being quiet but we are quite unique — the whole interest in sustainability is growing — so we haven't experienced that sluggish retailing that others have."

While she was not concerned about increased competition in the sector, she admitted there was no guarantee in recouping costs during the holiday season.

"To be honest, I don't know, but as a small business we had to try it."

Close up of cherries at the Fyshwick markets

For the cafe next door, Barrio, staying open was a no-brainer.

Co-owner Sam Burns, whose booming business also dodged a tough year others had suffered, said it made sense to remain open while many nearby cafes were shut.

"Even though a lot of people go away, we've found a lot of people to be visiting Canberra as well," he said

"We just want to be reliable to our customers and like the momentum of being able to serve coffee every day."

Christmas rush ramps up

While some business owners contemplate the risks and benefits of staying open between Christmas and New Year, fresh food stores have been gleefully banking up on the festive rush.

On Sunday, piles of cherries lined the sidewalk of the Fyshwick markets and the air filled with the smell of fresh bread.

Early risers came, coffee in hand, to get the jump on the big ticket item: the prawns.

A man dumps a bucket of prawns into a cooler.

At the door of his seafood shop, business owner Nathan Munro had been up for hours, but had no chance to eat breakfast.

"Mate, I haven't had breakfast from yesterday," he said.

It is, of course, the busiest day of the year for Mr Munro's seafood shop, which was preparing to sell about 2.2 tonnes of prawns.

Across the fruit stands, customers announced they had travelled from as far as Broken Hill to get their hands on the cherries — a long way to come for fresh fruit.

Original Article

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