It’s the tourist season and every year visiting friends ask me the same question: When we come, why does Albany close?
It doesn’t, of course, there’s always a place to buy petrol and at least one IGA keeps it’s doors open. What they mean is: Why is it so hard to find a place ready with a cup of coffee, a piece of cake and a decent meal?
On the Sunday following New Year, I found two coffee shops open and staff at both were running on empty and complaining about all the others with their doors slammed. Not a good look in a tourist town.
What the hell would I know about the service industry? Let me lay my cred on the line: all my brothers are in retail, I was once in retail, my father was a retailer, his mother and her father, all retailers.
The man of our house, Stanley Roy Doust, ran his shop in a time of heavily regulated shopping hours but he ran it with community responsibility firm in mind and if your mower broke down on Sunday at 2.20 pm, he would say: I’ll see you down the shop in 10 minutes. You can pay me tomorrow.
In a tourist town we need to nurture strong local operators like Stanley.
Some years after the proliferation of shopping centres, he said to me: Shopping centres have become the new cathedrals.
He’s right. Colin Barnett knows it. And so does Mark McGowan. People flock to the glitz seeking manna and so much leisure revolves around shopping experiences.
But even bishops should be given time off and so Stanley and I say: Close the cathedrals at least one day a week, but make sure the tourists leave town with a warm glow, because there is no greater marketing strategy than the one that works from mouth to mouth.