To avoid casting a gloomy shadow over the festive season, regional shoppers are being encouraged to ”give the gift of local” in 2023 and support their community in a tough economic time.
“I think that people really need to understand how much influence they have on their local economy,” said Business NSW’s Serena Hardwick.
“It’s that whole idea that you talk with your feet and looking at ways that you could gift locally this Christmas because it can have a big impact.”
The latest Business Conditions Survey revealed that 61 per cent of businesses are expecting Christmas trade to be down on last year, while only 17 per cent anticipate an uptick.
Businesses in Sydney are expecting an average 4 per cent downturn, while the regions are likely to bear the brunt with a decline of 13 per cent.
“As well as shopping from local stores, we’re encouraging people to think about giving local experiences that have that flow-on effect,” Ms Hardwick said.
“Local shoppers do have influence and they can really change things for us.”
Wagga Mayor Dallas Tout said that in tough times, it was even more important to support local businesses.
“With the cost of living and economic pressures on the community at this time, it would be really positive if people could consider shopping in Wagga or the surrounding regions,” he said.
“Whether that’s purchasing an item or something for a present or whether it’s an experience or gift pack or a gift voucher, that would be fantastic because it all contributes to the betterment of our community.”
Councillor Tout added that even shopping locally at the big-brand chain stores made a positive impact.
“We know that it contributes economically to the community but it also keeps people in jobs and if we start to lose that local shopping, it can contribute to the loss of jobs in retail and wholesale and have a negative impact.”
According to the business survey, the costs of insurance, rents and energy head the list of concerns, with taxes, levies and government charges also expected to take their toll.
“Businesses across the region are most concerned about the impact of recent rate rises on customer spending,” Ms Hardwick said.
“We know that the Riverina Murray continuously shows its resilience. However, the cost of doing business is impacting the profit margins of our local businesses and impacting their ability to grow and expand.
“We are very concerned that the recent interest rate rises also come at a time when the Federal Government is proposing industrial relations changes which will further increase the cost of doing business.”
On the upside, the majority of NSW businesses are predicting that they will maintain their workforce headcount for the next quarter, and also forecast that business confidence will continue to rise.
“I’m pleasantly surprised by the fact that business confidence is finally lifting,” Ms Hardwick said.
“While trade may not match last year’s, it is positive to see that business confidence is improving across the region.
“We applaud the NSW Government for introducing business measures to help in these tough times for those with loans, including changes to procurement rules, moves to scrap the Emergency Services Levy and energy support to small and medium businesses.”
When it comes to giving local gifts, places like The Wagga Shop at the Visitor Information Centre on Tarcutta Street, the August & Artisan handmade collective on Forsyth Street, Knights Deli on Fitzmaurice Street or The Little Yellow House Art Gallery are great spots to find a broad range of choices.
Local experiences are also a great option.
“Without giving away what I’m buying everyone for Christmas, we have so much to celebrate and there are some great things to do with family in the region,” Ms Hardwick said.
“I’ve looked at things like the Food I Am cooking experiences and I’ve got a few key places in mind that I’ll be taking my family who are visiting to.”