WODONGA’S only sporting goods store is closing down.
Sportfirst at the post office end of High Street will shut just as the latest stage of roadworks start along the shopping strip on January 14.
The disruption caused by that work, along with internet shopping and its increased use by sporting clubs and the closure of the nearby Coles supermarket reducing foot traffic are all factors in the store’s demise.
Co-owners Jenny Wilson and Michael Hales have run the business since 2011 and have had it for sale for the past two years but no potential buyers have shown strong interest.
“I personally will be relieved, even though it’s sad but when you’re not supported in lots of different ways what do you do?” Ms Wilson said.
“When the roadworks start this year we’re not going to survive it, this is what we’re going to have to do.
“We’ve spoken to our landlord and council and it’s just fallen on deaf ears, they don’t want to be involved.”
Mr Hales added: “With what’s happened in High Street it will be good to get out.
“The writing on the wall was roadworks for five months, we just wouldn’t survive that with access (for customers) and all that sort of stuff.”
Ms Wilson said the store had endured “mega” losses when earlier High Street works were done and after Coles moved to Mann Central in 2017.
“If people didn’t walk past to the post office they wouldn’t know it’s here, there’s people in Wodonga that don’t know it’s in here,” she said.
“There’s three stores in Albury and their mindset is to go over there.”
Ms Wilson said they been offered a store in the Mann Central complex but rejected it due it being smaller and having a high rent.
The shop has sold sporting goods since 1969 when then business owner Tony Conway moved his store which began on the other side of High Street in 1961.
It stayed in the family until 2007 (being managed by Nic Conway) when it was sold to former Murray Bushrangers coach Phil Bunn.
The Wilson and Hales families bought the business in partnership in 2011.
The major retail trend since then, the rise of online shopping, has taken a toll with football and cricket clubs no longer having the same relationships with Sportfirst.
“We haven’t done hockey for ages because they get it online,” Ms Wilson said.
“Gone are the days when it used to be you and you only.”
However, Ms Wilson and Mr Hales expect a franchise, such as Rebel, to take advantage of Wodonga not having a specialist sports store and open up in the future.
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