By Robert Muir
Federation Council is taking action to mount a challenge to the decision by Wesfarmers to close Corowa Target.
Corowa Target is to close in “early to mid-2021” according to Wesfarmers which owns both Target and Kmart stores.
At the time of The Free Press going to print yesterday morning, Federation Council Mayor Pat Bourke confirmed that council representatives were to meet via video link with Business Chamber Corowa in the afternoon to discuss the situation as well as other economic developments consequent upon COVID-19.
Federation Council and Business Chamber Corowa actively sought the meeting, especially following the Target announcement, with a view to writing a letter on behalf of the community expressing extreme disappointment in the decision and requesting reconsideration by Wesfarmers.
It is understood Federation Council will seek a meeting with Wesfarmers, the building’s owner, property manager and Target representatives to discuss the situation, hoping that Target will stay or the store become a Kmart store.
Under the drastic plan announced last Friday, Wesfarmers advised that up to 75 Target stores will be closed down including Benalla and Myrtleford while 92, including Target Yarrawonga will be converted into Kmart outlets, in “early 2021”.
The shock announcement regarding the struggling discount department store chain was formally made by Wesfarmers to investors.
Former Corowa businesswoman and councillor with Federation Council, Gail Law expressed her extreme disappointment at the decision to close Target and wants reconsideration by Wesfarmers.
“Federation Council is investing a lot of money into Corowa and the whole council area. It has significant plans for Ball Park, Corowa Foreshore and Morris Park which are currently on display,” she said.
“I think council is doing everything possible to boost Corowa and surrounds.
“The retail sector is so important for Corowa and Target is a special store.”
Cr Law said there is no other shop in Corowa which has various items of clothing for all ages of people, including children’s clothing, and that Target should become Kmart.
“It should survive,” she said. “We lost the ANZ Bank and we don’t want to lose Target.”
Corowa Business Chamber President Stuart Whisson also expressed his disappointment. “It’s a great loss to the town,” he said.
“It’s not only the unemployment but people don’t often find alternative employment in town.
“And people have to go out of town to do shopping. We want people to shop locally.”
Mr Whisson said if the closure does eventually happen, hopefully some business will set up where Target is. “But we want, of course, for Target to stay,” he said.
Wesfarmers advised that with the majority of proposed Target closures planned to occur in 2021, considerable time exists to explore all available options to redeploy affected team members.
“Target team members impacted by store closures will be given priority consideration for new roles created in Kmart and Catch as these businesses continue to grow,” the statement issued by Wesfarmers states.
“In addition, Wesfarmers has established a cross-divisional working group to identify redeployment opportunities for affected team members, including in Bunnings and Officeworks.
“Where there are no Wesfarmers businesses in town, we’re also working with other employers to try and find opportunities for our team.
“Target team members who are unable to be redeployed will be provided with access to support services, along with all entitlements.”
Advice sought from Wesfarmers by The Free Press on Monday contained: “We are commencing an extensive process of reaching out to our stores and those team members most impacted by the changes to explain what it means for them.
“Once we have talked to our teams, we will be in a position to share further details (with The Free Press) more broadly.”
A Target spokeswoman said the decision had been a difficult one.
“During this difficult time, we are committed to supporting our team,” the spokeswoman said.
“Across the Kmart Group we have made a significant effort to avoid store closures and retain our people and for impacted store team members we have the benefit of time to help find alternative employment opportunities.
“We believe that Target has a future as a leading retailer in Australia and we know it is loved by so many, but a number of actions are required to ensure it is fit for purpose in a competitive, challenging and dynamic market, including a smaller number of stores and a stronger online business.”
Wesfarmers managing director Rob Scott said the changes would “enhance the overall position of the Kmart Group, while also improving the commercial viability of Target”.