THE widespread drought has had an impact on festive shopping in the Central West with business leaders saying trade is down.
While it may have taken until August for the entire state to be declared in drought, the region’s farmers were suffering for many months earlier.
The very dry conditions led to a huge stock sell-off with graziers forced to truck in feed from interstate – the result was a lot less money to spend on the farm and in town.
As a major service centre for large parts of Western NSW, Dubbo has also been hit by the long-running drought, Dubbo Chamber of Commerce president Matt Wright said.
“The city itself is pretty resilient, but Dubbo is a big service centre for a massive area which is largely rural and agricultural [and] they’re people who spend in the city,” he said.
“We’re expecting it to be a little slower this year.”
“We’re still seeing the effect of the drought in the region and it means that there just isn’t as much to spend on presents as there has been in previous years,” Bathurst Business Chamber president Angus Edwards said.
“It’s certainly slower than previous years. Everyone’s doing it pretty tough and the upcoming federal and state elections have had an impact.”
Mr Edwards said Christmas was usually the busiest period for many retailers, but some across the Central West had suffered a very difficult year.
“Unfortunately we’re seeing a few retailers in trouble and they’ve fallen over,” he said.
“There certainly is a lot of pressure on retailers, but I think locally retailers have stepped up.”
The festive rush has also been slow in the colour city, Orange Business Chamber president Ash Brown said.
“It has been late to kick this year, but it’s certainly kicking now,” he said.
Mr Brown said the drought had resulted in less money being spent in Orange in the lead-up to Christmas.
“There’s no doubt that it would have had an impact,” he said.
“If it hurts your hip pocket, you don’t go and spend.
“We’re [Orange] a little insular to the drought because we’re higher and it doesn’t burn the paddocks off.”
All business chamber presidents agree that the region will see long-term benefits if shoppers spend their money locally.
“Online continues to be a challenge for local retailers,” Mr Wright said.
“Retailers have a challenge to reinvent themselves with the growth of online.”
Mr Brown said if the money stays in the economy, statistics show it can turn over seven or eight times.
“It certainly supports people and they’re citizens of Orange as well, they’ve got kids an mortgages to pay for,” he said.
While Mr Angus said shoppers had more certainty buying in a store rather than online, such as the ability to try on clothes, seek advice from retailers and the option to return products more easily.
“At the end of the day technology is great, but humans want to interact with humans,” he said.