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Big W shock closure

Friday, 16th March, 2018

Big W won’t be selling anything for much longer in Broken Hill. PICTURE: Emily Roberts Big W won’t be selling anything for much longer in Broken Hill. PICTURE: Emily Roberts

By Emily Ferguson

After 32 years of trading in Broken Hill, Big W will soon shut up shop, putting about 80 people out of work.

Yesterday the owners of the giant store at the Westside Plaza announced it will close on June 17. 

The news was greeted with shock and dismay by the workers’ union, the city’s mayor and Sentinal, the company that bought the Plaza about three years ago.

The managing director of Sentinal, Warren Ebert, said Big W had been given many incentives to stay but showed no interest in extending its lease, which was due to expire on June 30.

Mr Ebert said Big W had left Broken Hill “in the lurch”.

“We wanted to do anything to keep them at Westside Plaza but they were unwilling to negotiate,” he said.

“It appears they had planned this closure for some time without giving us any opportunity to change their mind.

“We offered to reduce their rent, decrease their space and numerous other solutions but they just didn’t want to talk to us.

“Big W has gone and left Broken Hill in the lurch with its decision to close its store. Our thoughts are with the workers and families who will be affected by this closure.”

Mr Ebert said Sentinel had received “significant” interest from other national retailers in taking over the space now occupied by Big W.

Sentinel was also in negotiations with a “major national financial organisation” for space in the centre, he said.

Mr Ebert said he could not understand why Big W was leaving the Westside Plaza, which was doing well and attracting more tenants.

“There’s more activity there now than when we bought it,” he said.

In a media release yesterday Big W Communications said it was “unable to reach an agreement with the landlord.”

“Big W wishes to acknowledge and thank the team members for their hard work and commitment over the years and as well to the Broken Hill community,” its spokeswoman said. 

Employees would be offered work at other Big W stores or within the Woolworths’ brands, and permanent employees would be offered redundancy,” she said. 

It would also be offering “outplacement and on-site training” to all staff members. 

The Broken Hill branch of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employee’s Union (SDA), said it was very disappointed to hear the news that Big W would be closing its doors.

“It is absolutely devastating for our members who work in Broken Hill,” said Assistant Secretary Josh Peak. “We are incredibly sad to see this store will be closed and are disappointed Big W weren’t able to make it work,” he said.

Mr Peak said Broken Hill was a regional centre yet now the closest Big Ws were Mildura and Port Augusta.

“We will work with Big W to ensure their team members are redeployed and can keep their jobs,” he said. “It is particularly hard being a regional centre, but we want them to meet their obligations and we also want to ensure that Big W pays the correct and fair redundancy packages.

“It won’t be easy for our staff to find alternative employment, especially when staff have given decades of service and tried hard to make sure the store was performing well.”

Mr Peak said the SDA BH branch have a representative at Big W today to provide support to its members.

Broken Hill’s mayor, Darriea Turley, said the news of Big W’s demise came as a shock.

“Council received a call from Big W (yesterday) afternoon regarding the closure and we were truly shocked by the news,” she said.

“Our thoughts are primarily with the workers and families who will be affected by this unexpected closure, and we were pleased to hear that Big W will be making a variety of compensation and alternative employment options available for staff members.

“We also bear no ill-will toward Big W, and understand the realities involved in business and the complications that can arise when negotiating a new lease.

“While the closure represents a setback for Broken Hill, we remain confident that the city has a very bright future.

“Broken Hill is a leader in the renewable energy field, and the mining industry in and around the city remains robust.

“In the near future we will see the reopening of the North Mine, and there are several significant mining operations on the horizon including the Hawsons Iron Project and Cobalt Blue near Thackaringa.

“We will now look to meet with the owners of Westside Plaza and discuss any upcoming plans to find a new major tenant.”

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