Small businesses in the Central West are experiencing a decline in revenue and frequency of local customers at their stores.
To compound the issue, business owners are also working throughout the week and sometimes missing out on family engagements.
Melissa Kelly, a Bathurst-based owner of retail store Bake, Table and Tea, said she had witnessed this downturn for the past 10 months and blames rising living costs, intense drought, and price competition for the dip in footfalls.
“A lot of our customers are from farms who have been struggling for over 12 months, especially ones who rely solely on their farm for income,” Ms Kelly said.
Ms Kelly started her business in 2015 and her store specialises in kitchenware, bakeware, homewares, tea and custom furniture with a cafe that serves more than 50 different teas.
Stress in business
A recent report The Economy of Shopping Small: Back Your Backyard showed that Ms Kelly was not the only businessperson who faces hardship.
Small businesses across the country are experiencing similar levels of difficulties.
“It’s clear that small business owners need more support. Two in five (39 per cent) small businesses say it’s difficult to make a financial success and over two thirds (68 per cent) wish customers knew just how hard it is to run a small business,” the report noted.
“There has been a significant rise in the number of small business operators who reported stress in their top three least favourite aspects of running a small business - up from 33 per cent to 41 per cent year-on-year.”
The report noted that small business owners feel the government and banks could provide more support.
Ms Kelly said small businesses can’t compete with bigger players.
“We just don’t have the buying power that the large corporate businesses have. This is why it is so important that people really understand the impact large business has over local business,” she said.
“There are still so many people that either don’t understand or don’t care about local businesses. We hear so often people comparing us to the majors such as David Jones and Myer in terms of price and offering, and expect to get that same price or range.
“We try to explain that sometimes we do not have the same buying power as the major retailers, however most customers will chase the lowest price especially when disposable income is at a low.”
The report found that almost half (46 per cent) of small business owners haven’t had seven consecutive days off in the past year and about 34 per cent have dipped into personal savings to fund their businesses.
“One in five has missed or rescheduled a family holiday because of work commitments,” it said.
Ms Kelly and her husband are well-known in the city, but she said they work hard in maintaining and gaining support on a daily basis.
“Our business is open six days a week, but we work seven days a week to maintain the quality of our store and give the impression to most that retail is a lot of fun,” she said.
“Local retail businesses do not have the luxury of sending slow selling stock to a clearance direct factory outlet type store which means we may not have the opportunity to introduce new stock as our cash flow is impaired and puts us in a vulnerable position where we may not be able to compete in freshness and new arrivals.”
Findings of the report:
- 38 per cent of NSW shoppers are small business champions (spent more than $450 in the last month)
- 14 per cent of NSW small business owners have received government assistance in the last 12 months
- 36 per cent of NSW small business owners are not knowledgeable at all about the available government assistance
- 33 per cent of NSW small business owners have a family member working with them on a full-time basis
- 34 per cent of NSW business owners fear risk of closure – higher than Queensland (29%), and Victoria (32%)
Ms Kelly said online business was also a major concern.
“Sometimes we cannot even match pricing for the same item. There had been many instances where the online price advertised is cheaper than what we buy it at wholesale,” she said.
“If there is a decline in our customer service and the items we have on offer, we would lose out as this is one of the major reasons people shop with us.
“We are the ones that donate to all local fundraising events and support our local community, a lot of big business retail stores do not give back and furthermore the profits from those businesses are not spent within their regional cities and towns who spend money with them,” Ms Kelly said.
Appeal to community
The Bathurst-based owner is appealing to the community for their support.
“It is not just government that should support small local businesses. It is up to the community to keep the dollars local and support local business and it is up to the small local businesses to attract those dollars to keep the cycle going.”
“We all have to play our part and deliver the best service and the best for our communities.”