Plans to close to the doors of Target Tenterfield and other country stores will proceed on August 24 as planned after a coordinated appeal from mayors of affected communities failed to sway the conviction of Target bosses.
Target Australia has officially responded to approaches by Tenterfield mayor Peter Petty and his counterparts from Gilgandra, Eurobodalla and Temora who met last month with Steven Mann, Head of Corporate Affairs for the Kmart Group, which includes Kmart Australia and Target Australia.
"The decision to close these stores was a difficult one and we were grateful for the opportunity to hear the councils' proposal of an alternative operating model for our stores in these regional locations," a Target spokesperson said.
"We have explored if this model or similar could work for Target in those stores, however we have ultimately concluded that this will not be feasible given the direction of our business.
"We are thankful for the time, collaboration, ideas and support of each of the councils, communities and our teams in these towns and we will continue to explore options to ensure our Target products including our full range online are available to our customers after the stores close."
The mayors' suggestions included a model similar to that of the community-run Gilgandra & District Community Bank, a reimagining of its branch of Bendigo Bank which faced closure. Faced with the prospect of losing their Target stores, the mayors had pleaded for 12 months grace to come up with ideas for keeping them open.
While dismayed at the confirmation the stores will close as originally scheduled, Cr Petty was glad he and his fellow mayors had done their utmost.
"We gave it a go and went into battle, but they decided to stick to their guns," he said.
"I'm just very disappointed."
After also making representations on behalf of the community, MP Janelle Saffin said Target's decision to pull out of Tenterfield is very disappointing and highlights how country towns can be subject to the vagaries of large corporations and their priorities.
"Tenterfield has many strengths, including its high tourism value and even more untapped potential that brings people into the CBD, which will ensure it thrives and survives in the longer term," she said.
"There are other retail outlets in the CBD and this could well be an opportunity for them.
"I acknowledge Tenterfield Shire mayor Cr Peter Petty, his fellow councillors and the Chamber of Commerce for our joint community efforts in trying to convince Target to stay."
Meanwhile there's an air of sadness among staff at the Tenterfield store, who number eight in a variety of full time, part time and casual positions. They've been offered positions elsewhere in the company, but it's uncertain at this stage whether any of these offers will be taken up.
There has been no surge in business in light of the news of impending closure, now 3.5 months away.
Despite Target stores experiencing a total sales decrease of 4.7 per cent overall last financial year, Wesfarmers Annual Report 2018 shows growth in online sales. The conglomerate's department stores group (which includes KMart) reported revenues of $8,837 million.