Wagga’s Boxing Day sales have failed to live up to the big city hype, with almost every locally-owned retailer keeping their doors shut.
At midday on Baylis Street, the divide between national chains and small businesses was in stark contrast to the capital cities. Shoppers wandered along in small groups of two or three despite the oppressive heat while children ate ice-cream cones.
Traffic was light as well, with plenty of parking available on the main street, unlike the kilometres-long traffic jams of Sydney, where Myer and David Jones had opened at 5am in an effort to satisfy demand.
Steven Cook, a Wagga man who started a Boycott Boxing Day page on Facebook, said it was a clear sign of the city’s disdain for opportunistic retailers.
“There’s definitely a different mindset in Wagga,” Mr Cook said.
“It was striking to see the split between who was open and who was not.
“Small business owners clearly aren’t interested in opening even though it could come at a cost to them.”
In the malls, Blooms The Chemist, Priceline, Jamaica Blue and Baker’s Delight all stayed closed, a possible sign of workers unwilling to miss the traditional family day.
New legislation introduced by the state government last year meant that while no shop in Wagga would be forced to open on the day or staff forced to report to work, retailers had the option to remain open and continue trading. However, without the staff to run a store, some businesses had their hands forced.
After driving down Baylis Street to satisfy his curiosity, Mr Cook said the few people who were shopping seemed to be doing so to kill time.
“They seemed to be shopping for fun,” he said.
“But I guess it’s a sign that most people aren’t interested in recreational shopping.”
Like many Australian families, Mr Cook said he spent the day playing new card and board games with the kids, watching the cricket and eating leftovers. When the weather cooled off, a trip to the river with the dog was in order.
“For a long time Boxing Day was an easy day, especially at the end of the year,” Mr Cook said.
“I’m not one to tell people how they should spend their money and I definitely don’t want businesses to hurt, but it seems an odd time of the year for more consumerism.”