Now that Roger Corbett is not working the long CEO hours, he might have the chance to kick back and spend quality time in some of Australia’s more picturesque spots. Places like, well, Maleny in Queensland’s Sunshine Coast hinterland.

The locals think it’s not as attractive as it used to be thanks to an unwanted Woolworths store dumped in the middle of it, but Roger might like the familiarity of the stock. And he’s still a highly paid consultant to the firm.

What’s even better is that if he needs to buy a toothbrush or packet of biscuits, he won’t have to queue at the checkout. According to The Courier-Mail, he could pretty much have the store to himself.

Six months after the bitterly-opposed shop opened for the business, the locals are still fighting it with the boycott receiving good coverage. In the course of a few days in the old home state I heard the owner of the Maleny IGA store being sympathetically interviewed on Brisbane ABC radio, as well stumbling on yesterday’s Courier yarn.

“They may have lost the battle, but for my money, the folk at Maleny are winning the war,” writes Jane Fynes-Clinton, observing just ten vehicles in the Woolies car park last Saturday morning while “a single checkout operator studied her nails as she waited for the few customers to get to the payment part of their shopping experience”. The car park at the Independent Grocers’ Association store up the hill was packed.

It’s well short of scientific research, but it doesn’t sound like much of an investment for Woolworths – particularly when the company allegedly knocked back a community offer to buy the land for $2 million. And the negative PR to the equation and it’s definitely a loser.

“Time will tell if they can wait the supermarket giant out until it lumbers out of town, or if the town will ultimately be divided,” concludes Ms F-C. “Some locals have eyed the building off already and figure it would be a good arts centre space.

“The rest of us will watch on, hoping Maleny can cling to its belief that it knows what is good for it and retain its sense of self. The people power victory these past six months is inspiring.”

Peter Fray

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