Don’t let fuel cost ‘steer you away’

By Holly Tregenza

KYABRAM businesses are warning they won’t survive if locals continue to go out of town to get a few cents per litre off their fuel. 

Petrol station owner Harvey Smith, who owns and operates the Shell station on Allan St, said he was disappointed about the ongoing raft of complaints against fuel retailers in the area after Kyabram was found to be the second most expensive place in the state for unleaded fuel. 

And while he can’t speak for the three stations in town who have their prices set by big chain retailers, Mr Smith said he does his best to keep his prices reasonable. 

“We are the only independent service station left in Kyabram, we're open seven days a week and we employ six locals who would be possibly without a job if the station closed down,” he said.

“We really try hard to do the right thing, we give back to the community and we look after our staff, they are the most important people to us together with our loyal customer base.

“Kyabram is off the main highway and being open every day of the week mostly from 6am-10pm is in itself costly.

“That meant that last year, our staff payroll was about a quarter of a million dollars.”

Outgoing Chamber of Commerce president Miles Gould has warned that when people head to Shepparton to fill up, it hurts the wider Kyabram economy. 

“I know of people in the community who drive to Shepparton to fill up their petrol, and while they are there they might do some grocery shopping, and go to the pharmacy to pick something up,” he said. 

“That means not only do the service stations lose out, but so does our local IGA or Woolworths, and the two pharmacies in town don’t even get a chance to compete.

“I think people will find the prices of goods here are either equal, or at a minimum extra cost, to those of Shepparton.

“And besides, you've got to question whether the cost of driving to Shepparton and back is really worth it in petrol.”

Mr Smith said the fact few of the town’s retail outlets were open on weekends, and many of the shops closed early, meant traffic wasn't coming through as regularly. 

“This alone would take some time to correct if Kyabram’s retailers were to change their trading hours to attract more shoppers into our town.”

He pointed out his service station has a partner program with Kyabram IGA, where customers can get 4c off a litre if they spend $25 or more on groceries.

“That gives our locals a discount and helps the IGA to survive as well,” Mr Smith said.

“Kyabram has got so much going for it but we won't survive if we fight among ourselves.

“Businesses still have to make money. If there is nothing open in Ky, people won't come.’’

Mr  Gould said that while he believed petrol prices could be improved, going out of town to fill up was not the answer.

He urged shoppers to put their money where their mouths are when they do their spending. 

“Think about where you shop and what you are supporting with your spending,” he said.