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Retail despair

Fishing tackle is a ‘blokey’ kind of thing – most customers wouldn’t bat an eyelid.

Readers may be forgiven for believing that the following is fictitious, but regrettably it is not. While holidaying on the Central Coast I chanced to visit a fishing tackle store in Umina. On entering the store I noticed the owner sitting at a desk behind the counter. My presence was ignored. As is my wont in these circumstances I announced myself with a bold, breezy and friendly “good afternoon”. The reaction was stupefying. The owner continued to ‘work’ on his computer and grunted something like “how you doing”.

At this point I put my pilchards on the counter, which I thought may attract his attention. “Won’t be long mate”. As I stood there seething but not showing it, I noticed lo and behold, that the reason for his inattention was a computer game.

Now let’s not overact – or should we? Customer enters. No greeting. Sit on your butt. Play a game on computer. When customer clearly wants attention, tell him to wait. Finish game. ‘Attend’ to customer.

The irony is that he was quite a nice bloke. Once he had come to terms with the interruption to his game, he willingly took my money.

Is this an anomaly? Or is this small retail in Australia? If this is how an owner operates, why is he still in business? I pondered over this for hours. There was no animosity whatsoever and all dealings were entirely friendly, civil and cordial. But what caused this contempt, disdain and arrogance towards a new customer?

The only conclusion I could reach was that he didn’t really care a hoot. He was comfortable with his business ticking over. Fishing tackle is a ‘blokey’ kind of thing. Most customers wouldn’t bat an eyelid at his behaviour.

What made the entire scenario a lot worse was that the store was a mess. It was not a disaster but it could certainly have done with a tidy up, a bit of merchandising and a clean-up. The expensive reels were in a glass cabinet for security reasons but the cabinet was unlocked.

How can anyone with an interest in retail not despair? Let any bricks and mortar retailer of this ilk dare to complain about the internet taking sales. Hang your head in shame Mr Owner of the Umina Tackle store.

Stuart Bennie is a retail consultant at Impact Retailing and can be contacted at or 0414 631 702.     

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