At a time when online sales are booming, one regional South Australian town has bucked the trend and welcomed 20 new bricks and mortar businesses within the past 12 months.

Key points:

  • Twenty new businesses have moved into shopfronts in the Renmark township over the past year
  • Riverland local Katherine Owen is shifting her business from online to a bricks and mortar store
  • The Renmark Paringa Council and the Renmark Paringa Network are proud to see empty shops filling, following efforts to bring more business activity to the town

The Riverland town of Renmark recorded the business confidence increase during the pandemic, with new stores opening in the central business district and at the plaza complex.

Katherine Owen is the owner of an online baby goods store in the Riverland and has been operating since November last year.

She never had plans of opening a shopfront, but customer feedback prompted her to take the leap and she’s now only weeks away from opening her own doors.

“I found a lot of people weren’t really using our website and then after asking people why, I was getting the feedback that they like to see what they are buying beforehand,” she said.

“I was attending markets and hosting pop-up shops and they went really, really well.

Chubby Cheeks Boutique owner Katherine Owen is looking forward to welcoming customers into her first bricks and mortar store at the end of the month.(ABC Riverland: Anita Ward)

Focus on foot traffic

Like many regional towns, empty shops had become an issue in Renmark in recent years.

Renmark Paringa Council chief executive Tony Siviour said staff have been working with landlords and the recently formed Renmark Paringa Network to find incentives to fill empty spaces around town.

Chief executive Tony Siviour says council has made strategic decisions in recent years to make Renmark a more “attractive” place for businesses to operate.(ABC Riverland: Anita Ward)

One of their projects included a redevelopment of the nearby riverfront, which included the installation of a water park.

Mr Siviour said it was about getting locals and visitors into the centre of the town, stopping into businesses and seeing possible business opportunities.

“… It’s probably some of the larger shops that we are still struggling [to fill] and the classic one is the old Target Country store.

“What we’re hoping is the activation that we’re doing on the riverfront and dragging people into the town centre will make that building more attractive to somebody to come and lease out.”

The Renmark Paringa Network has also launched its own shared space initiative, giving businesses a taste of operating a shopfront but at a discounted cost.

Georgie Vermeeren says the creation of the Renmark Paringa Network has given local businesses confidence to expand into empty stores.(ABC Riverland: Anita Ward)

Marketing and membership coordinator Georgie Vermeeren said this has proven successful so far, but it was also exciting to see business confidence increasing in the town more generally.

“When forming the RPN about 12 months ago the one thing on the agenda, and what really brought the network together, was we wanted to see more of the shops filled,” she said.

“We wanted to see more doors opening so that we could offer more as a town and particularly from the more central point, and so seeing that happen and being able to give people a stepping stone … is [great].”