The Victorian Government announced a $6 million Streetlife program yesterday to give “targeted assistance to retailers”, providing a stark contrast to the lack of funding offered by Federal Government and other states and territories for the struggling sector.
The four-year program for retailers is aimed at helping them develop their business and marketing strategies, boost skills and improve online and social media capacity to increase customer traffic and sales.
The Streetlife program existed back in 2003 but was scrapped for several years before its reinstatement yesterday.
Victoria’s Minister for Innovation, Services and Small Business Louise Asher announced the cash injection for the ailing sector at the launch of the Victorian Small Business Festival.
“The Coalition government will partner with councils and business trader groups to support small retail businesses in local shopping precincts as part of this new program,” Asher said in her speech.
After the announcement, Asher told SmartCompany it was “very important” that strip shopping centres and commercial hubs continued to be viable and said one-third of the program’s funding would go to regional Victoria.
When asked why the Victorian Government had made this commitment to retail business when other state and territory governments had cut assistance, Asher described the program as a “ministerial initiative” to try and assist retailers.
“It was basically my response to a very tough time for the retail sector and I wanted something tailored and specific for the retail industry,” she says.
The Australian Retailers Association has backed the program and ARA executive director Russell Zimmerman described it as a “massive boost” for the retail sector.
“There’s no doubt there has been a dramatic shift in Australia’s retail industry over the last few years, with multichannel retailing increasingly more prevalent, and retailers are equipping themselves to remain relevant to their customers into the future,” Zimmerman says.
Zimmerman says there is no equivalent to Streetlife in other states and territories and he would like to see similar initiatives to assist retailers.
“The Victorian Government is seeing a need in this area and they are leading the way in retail and we would hope that other governments would follow suit,” Zimmerman says.
“Governments are starting to look very closely at the retail sector, it is fair to say we will continue to work with other governments and certainly talk to them about what is happening in Victoria and hopefully other governments will follow suit.”
The funding also won praise from the Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“Small business is the engine room of the economy and the practical assistance directed towards marketing strategies, business skills and online and social media capacity through the Streetlife program will be welcomed,” VECCI chief executive Mark Stone said.
“Equally, the range of activities associated with the state government’s Small Business Festival is recognition of the important role small businesses play in the economy across the state.”