Love for Oz a minor miracle

Oz Australia partners Dave Anderson and Dave Watson rode a wave of patriotism to tell an unlikely Covid success story.

A FREMANTLE souvenir shop that’s done the seemingly impossible and survived the collapse of tourism credits its success with catching a wave of patriotism.

Oz Australia’s shops in the High Street mall and Cappuccino Strip got hammered when WA’s hard border went up in April last year, and the Chook recently reported on a staff member’s fears about the end of the federal government’s JobKeeper support last month.

But co-owner Dave Watson says that was an overly gloomy assessment and their survival against the odds could be a valuable lesson for other businesses around town.

Mr Watson said as imports got harder to source in the first wave of the pandemic, he and business partner Dave Anderson decided to ramp up their stock of Australian-made products.

Their timing was px2erfect; in July last year the Morrison government funded the campaign “Go Local First” urging Australians to help get the small business sector back on its feet.

Shortages also highlighted the country’s heavy reliance on imports; Roy Morgan research found Australians were now becoming more concerned about boosting domestic production to create jobs and support business (89 per cent) than getting a vaccine jab (83 per cent).

When China started sticking tariffs on various Australian goods, there was another seismic shift.

Mr Watson said stocking Australian brands brought the customers in, but their shopping habits had also changed.

“Since Covid there has been a stronger focus on buying Australian brands and people are prepared to spend a little more to get something that lasts for a long time,” Mr Watson said.

“There’s also been a resurgence in the younger market that we have not had before, particularly with the benefits of Afterpay.”

As their sales went up they doubled down, negotiating to expand their range of RM Williams gear from footwear to apparel, beefing up their Ripcurl range and stocking up with Freo’s biggest range of Ugg Australia boots.

Mr Watson said they also had good support from landlord Silverleaf Investments, saying the upgrades to the Manning Buildings and Atwell Arcade helped improve the customer experience by making it easier to develop a souvenir shop that looked more like a boutique.

But he said while the privately-owned buildings looked fantastic, it exposed the mall’s public realm as being a bit outdated and called on Fremantle council to come to the party with a makeover.

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