Fears over Woolworths in Banyo
NEWS that Woolworths is planning to set up shop in Banyo has come as a shock to the new owners of long-time local supermarket 5 Star, who fear they have little hope of competing with the grocery giant.
UPDATE: The Banyo Woolworths will open on Tuesday, May 17, after a “launch event” at 5pm, a Woolworths spokesperson said.
Sisters Alice Fernandes, Roselyn Kelly and Urmila Karan only took over late last year (October 28) and Mrs Fernandes said they would never have bought the business had they known of the Woolworths plan.
“We sell basically the same things,” Mrs Fernandes said.
“They can clear us out.”
As an example, she said Woolies could sell soft drink for much less than she could buy it from the wholesaler. This would lure shoppers to Woolworths where they would also pick up items they might normally grab at 5 Star while buying soft drink.
Kim Flesser called to task
Mrs Fernandes also said she was disappointed with local councillor Kim Flesser (Northgate ward), who took it upon himself to champion the Woolworths development application, lodged on December 2.
Announcing an application was before Brisbane City Council, Cr Flesser sent out an email last month headlined, “Woolworths comes to Banyo! Great news for residents in Nudgee, Nudgee Beach, Banyo, Virginia and Northgate”.
Mrs Fernandes said it was insensitive of Cr Flesser, whose office is above the Banyo library next door to 5 Star, to trumpet the arrival of Woolworths when it was obvious it would cannibalise many established local businesses and maybe even force some to close.
She said it was not Cr Flesser’s job to act as cheerleader for the $44 billion retail behemoth, and he should restrict himself to real areas of local need such as what she said was the poor state of public toilets.
Woolies jobs claim disputed
She also disputed the councillor’s claim of job creation, saying gains at any new Woolworths would be matched by losses at affected local businesses.
“It’s not a win-win.”
In an email reply to a constituent who is against the new Woolworths (which NorthernLife.com.au has seen), Cr Flesser said he backed the project because “the existing supermarkets are slowly dying – I don’t know of any local families who do their weekly shopping there”.
He also said: “This will save in transport costs for Banyo/Nudgee residents getting to buy their groceries – people will no longer have to drive to Nundah, Toombul, Chermside or Taigum to access a national supermarket outlet.
“People who don’t have private transport or have mobility problems will no longer have to catch a bus or train to do their grocery shopping.”
Prepared to fight
Mrs Karan said the sisters’ lawyers had conducted standard searches before the purchase and no plans by Woolworths came up.
Mrs Fernandes said about 80 per cent of the customers she spoke to were opposed to a Woolworths, arguing it would cause traffic and parking headaches, and change the local character.
Cr Flesser was reported in a local newspaper as saying the Banyo kindergarten at Tufnell Rd had flagged concerns about traffic and parking.
The sisters, who have committed to substantial rent for their shop space, would be lodging an objection to the development.
Devising a Plan B
In the meantime, they’re exploring ways to overcome the Woolworths threat.
Mrs Fernandes, whose husband, Richard, operates Kumari Spice ‘N’ Things at Virginia, is an accomplished cook and is considering opening a takeaway food kitchen.
The proposed Woolworths complex over 1.7ha covering 229, 235 and 279 Tufnell Rd would have a gross floor area of 5537sq m and 272 car spaces, according to the application’s executive summary.