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Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks described the news H&J Smith’s store was downsizing as a major blow for the community. The main Gore store will be closed and replaced by a women’s fashion shop at the end of August, with 23 of 27 employees to lose their jobs.
But, Mr Hicks also said it was an opportunity for businesses to "step up".
He said the news was "devastating" for staff and their families and a cause for significant concern among locals in terms of product selection.
That said, the ease of access to Gore’s central business district would provide local retailers with an opportunity to focus on their product ranges and shopper experience.
Mr Hicks said the February floods and Covid-19 prompted the Gore District Council to take a more proactive approach to the challenges facing the community from a social and business perspective.
A taskforce set up during Level 4 lockdown, led by Cr Richard McPhail, involving councillors and staff will look to connect with people across all sectors of the business community. Members include Mr Hicks and Crs Bronwyn Reid and Glenys Dickson, as well as representatives from local businesses and leaders, iwi, construction and retail.
Cr McPhail said its goal was to act as a conduit for struggling businesses to receive relevant aid information as well as figuring out the next "best move".
He said Gore was not a tourist destination so the group looked at what people were wanting — plans included trying to stimulate people to shop locally.
"For a small regional town, it’s going to be about loyalty and shopping local. What can we provide close to home?"
It was hoped the support given would enable the area to progress with the growth it had seen before lockdown.
"We’re not going to get away scot-free, but we’re pretty resilient."
There had already been a series of meetings with businesses to gauge the feeling of the sector and work was under way on an action plan.
"We need to be mindful that the challenges we face aren’t going to be overcome immediately. This is a marathon we are in right now,” Mr Hicks said.
The council wanted to work with the business sector to support collective initiatives, self-help, and accelerated recovery.
"Gore needs to become a place people want to spend time, a place where businesses are aligned to customers’ expectations and needs.
"In the midst of a crisis there is opportunity for businesses to step up," he said.
The council would be meeting with the owner of the H&J Smith building to understand his thoughts for the building’s future.