Launceston is a town which prides itself on its heritage. It's one of the oldest cities in Australia and as you walk the streets you're greeted with numerous historical buildings, which still play an important role.
Alongside those historical buildings sit historic retailers, who have been plying their trade for almost 100 years - in some cases more.
Those retailers like all others are facing one of the largest downturns in the history of Australia.
The coronavirus pandemic shut many stores across the country and throughout Launceston it left many operating on a purely take away basis.
As Tasmania begins to come out the other side of the pandemic retail is expected to bounce back. But they are not out of the woods yet.
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Gourlay's Sweet Shop is an institution in Launceston. The business was started in 1896 by a Scottish immigrant and has been serving hand-made sweets to the people of Northern Tasmania ever since.
Co-owner Anita Wood took over the business with her husband Michael in 1999. Michael's parents bought the business off the Gourlay family before he took over.
"We still make things virtually the same way that [they] did back then," Wood said.
The business has survived two World Wars, the Great Depression, the implementation of GST and the global financial crisis.
It is now facing the fight against a changing world, which has been slowly moving to online shopping.
Wood said the COVID-19 pandemic had been a difficult time for the business. She said they were able to stay open until Easter, but then closed for about three weeks.
"Because we do all our own Easter eggs we thought we were going to get really stranded with that, but I remember hearing Mr Gutwein come out on TV and say 'the Easter Bunny wasn't cancelled' ... but as soon as Easter Saturday finished we closed," she said.
"I just did online orders. I was [in the shop] trying to work out all of the JobKeeper stuff ... people have got no idea all the work that had to go into that to try and work out whether you qualified.
"I opened for a couple of days before Mother's Day and then we opened again towards the end of May."
Online orders were not part of Gourlay's business plan before the pandemic and there have been some issues organising freight for their products. But Wood said those were starting to be smoothed out.
She said the pandemic had been the hardest challenge the shop had faced in her 20 years in charge.
"It is certainly nothing I have ever seen before ... I have no idea how we are going to handle Christmas," Wood said.
"My hubby and I have been trying to look at how we can change the outlay of the shop to make it easier for people and more friendly."
Another stalwart of the CBD is Watsons Jewellers. The family run business has been passed down from father to son through three generations.
Owner Neil Watson is hoping to keep that tradition going by passing the store onto his son, Josh, when he retires.
The store was opened 95 years ago by Neil's grandfather. It started off as a small watch making store with a little bit of jewellery and has turned into a jewellery shop and not much watch making.
When lockdown restrictions were at their toughest in Tasmania, Watson was forced to close his store for two months.
"We have coped and got through it. It has been challenging, it has set up some different ideas we've had to come up with to make business viable," he said.
"If all goes to plan and we come out of COVID the way everyone hopes then I think it will be positive for a lot of businesses."
Watson said the ability to be flexible and innovate was key to remaining successful as a retail business.
"If you're not adapting to what is there and what you think might be coming then you are just going to be way behind the eight ball and never catch up," he said.
"I think that is the biggest thing with a lot of family businesses is that they don't evolve. It is the way we've always done it, so we keep doing it that way and then you find they just fall over. Sometimes what they are selling isn't what people are wanting anymore and then again it is a matter of adapting.
"There is being a bit of pride in being such a long-standing retailer. We care about it and we hope the public do as well."
Just down the road from Watsons is Neil Pitt's Menswear. The family run clothing shop has been servicing the people of Launceston since 1949.
When Donald Pitt first started the shop it was just after World War II and clothing was still being rationed. Now he is facing issues with his supply chain bought on by the pandemic.
"In [the] 1950s I think there was 21 menswear shops in Launceston. That included the menswear departments in the big department stores, and there were five or six large department stores - none of which now exist," Pitt said.
"Really there is only, now I think, two menswear shops in Launceston plus the menswear department in Myer."
Pitt said this year had been difficult for the business, but they were trading enough to get by.
"The problem that has grown and grown is the supply problem," he said.
"Quite a few of our suppliers were inaccessible for a long time. The rag trade in Australia is basically centred in Melbourne and Melbourne has been very badly affected as we all know. We have had some major supplies close down so that's a big problem.
"But our business has remained constantly acceptable. Not brilliant - I don't mean it's good, I don't mean it is busy, but it's been satisfactory for us."
University of Tasmania senior lecturer in marketing and retail researcher Louise Grimmer believes the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a shift towards online shopping.
She said the move online was likely to stay even as we begin to open up again.
"We will now see online shopping as a core element of the total retail offering not just as a side offering, as it has been for so many retailers prior to the pandemic," Dr Grimmer said.
"Pre-covid, online shopping accounted for about 7 per cent of all online spend. It will now account for around 15 to 20 per cent of total retail sales by the end of this year and this obviously has a significant impact for traditional bricks and mortar stores around Australia and particularly in Tasmania."
Dr Grimmer said it would be important for retailers in Launceston to give consumers choice if they wanted to successfully navigate the pandemic.
She said more and more consumers were window shopping online before making the final purchase in store.
"It's no longer a choice between physical and online - customers want both and retailers need to offer both," Dr Grimmer said.
"While international retailers and national chain stores are important elements of any nation's retail industry, it is small and independent traders that play a vital role in local communities, particularly in suburban and regional areas.
"Small stores provide local consumers with a wide variety of goods and services, employment opportunities, an alternative to the offerings from multinational corporations and they support local makers and producers. Small, niche stores also attract tourists and visitors, and significantly, they keep profits circulating in the local economy."
Dr Grimmer said the Christmas period would be an important test to see how the retail sector was performing. She said it was important to remember that the retail sector was struggling even before COVID-19.
"Department stores were suffering and so were those retailers operating in the 'middle of the road'. Then COVID came along, and we are now in a recession," Dr Grimmer said.
"People are concerned about job losses and what the future holds and many consumers are being cautious about their spending. Tasmanian retail has performed well compared with the rest of the country, but I think an important test will be Christmas 2020."
The COVID-19 pandemic is not the only challenge facing retailers in the CBD today. Continual lifestyle changes and access to better facilities in the surrounding towns has reduced the need for people to travel into the city.
Although the council has spent millions of dollars upgrading the facilities in the city centre, in an effort to attract people, Pitt, Wood and Watson all agreed more needs to be done.
"Society now is car driven. Everyone insists on having a car from 18 years up and if you can't park your cars or it is expensive to park your cars the car will triumph," Pitt said.
"How you overcome that I don't know. It is in every city not just Launceston."
Watson said the next 10 years was going to be tough, but it was important to create a vibrant environment within the city to entice people to come in.
"Keep it vibrant so it becomes a retail environment not just a place with shops," he said.
"While there has been a lot of work done, and I don't want to put any of that down, is it what the consumer is wanting? Is it a fun and clean and happy environment for them, do they want to come to the city?"
Wood said there needed to be more food venues in the city. She said after they moved their store into the quadrant mall she immediately noticed the difference in business.
"The biggest thing we have customers say is about parking. I don't know how people can expect to park in the city and not pay, but then they have got Kings Meadows that is free," she said.
"You need a food place right in the mall to get people [congregating.] We have got lots of food places now and there is nothing better in summer than seeing people sitting outside eating [and] enjoying the sunshine.
"I think there is still a spot for us you just have to work a bit harder."
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