Cooper's Hardware shuts its doors after 25 years
AN EMOTIONAL Stephen Cooper has called time on his retail career, announcing the closure of family business Cooper's Home Hardware after 25 years.
Mr Cooper, a stalwart of the business community for 40 years, along with his business partner and wife Diane, spoke to his yesterday afternoon to deliver the devastating news as the business closed its doors for the final time.
"I thanked them for their loyalty and told them we were a victim of circumstance,” Mr Cooper said.
The closure leaves eight employees without a job but Mr Cooper said there was no issue regarding paying staff.
"Fortunately, all our superannuation is up to date, all our tax liabilities are up to date,” Mr Cooper said.
"We sought legal advice on how to shut down our business.”
Mr Cooper's timber and hardware store at the corner of Electra and Targo Streets survived two floods in 2011 and 2013 respectively.
But the costs of rebuilding and recovering from the floods took their toll as the property value dropped significantly.
"Trying to sell a property and business, which was highly saleable before because it had insurance cover, is not saleable now because no one is going to buy a business that isn't insured,” he said.
"It has reduced our ability to talk to banks, borrow, all the things you need to do and put a massive amount of pressure on us.”
A vocal proponent of flood mitigation, Mr Cooper said as the flood season grew closer he felt it was time to pull the plug but vowed to continue his fight for flood mitigation in Bundaberg.
"The East Bundaberg levee would fix the situation,” Mr Cooper said.
"All the modelling shows that.
"The time for consulting is over, the new government needs to step up and honour its promises to all aspects of the mitigation.”
Mr Cooper's business was also a casualty of the Bunnings and Masters retail war with the prospect of a Masters store forcing his business to change tact.
"We were severely affected by Woolworths and Masters even though Masters didn't come,” he said.
"We had to change direction to meet Masters' needs because they were going to take retail sales to fight Bunnings.
"So how did Bunnings react? They doubled the size of their store.”
Despite the hardships, Mr Cooper remains optimistic about the future of small business in Bundaberg and especially the $16 million CBD Revitalisation Project.
"I'm on the committee for the project and I believe in it,” he said.
"The $16m upgrade to the CBD is absolutely essential.”
Mr Cooper thanked his loyal customers for their support, particularly during the floods.