Drought adds to financial issues for Orange small businesses

HARD TIMES: Cheeky Barista Cafe Owner Rodney Soo says small businesses in Orange were already facing financial troubles and the drought has made it worse. Photo: JUDE KEOGH 05112jksoo2
HARD TIMES: Cheeky Barista Cafe Owner Rodney Soo says small businesses in Orange were already facing financial troubles and the drought has made it worse. Photo: JUDE KEOGH 05112jksoo2

Small business owners in Orange were already feeling an economic pinch before the drought started, and now it is adding to their worries, according to the Orange Business Chamber.

Chamber president Ash Brown said the group is aligning with the state chamber of commerce to help farmers, whose struggles are having a flow-on effect for agribusinesses, as well as retail and hospitality. 

“We are hearing it definitely that other businesses are being affected,” Mr Brown said.

“I think really the biggest one is retailers in Orange are struggling particularly, hospitality [businesses] as well that have the bricks and mortar, they feel there’s less foot traffic.

“Firstly it could be the closure of Myer and secondly the drought. Unfortunately we don’t have a silver bullet to fix the problem.”

However, he said there is a silver lining with a plan for a $30-million CBD revamp, and the chamber is also working on an initiative to help lower electricity prices.

Cheeky Barista Cafe owner Rodney Soo said high electricity prices, along with the cost of gas and insurance, were already an issue for businesses before the drought started. 

“We’re all struggling, it doesn’t matter if it’s farmers, individuals or a business, it shouldn’t be like this,” Mr Soo said.

“I have watched medium to well-off customers coming in, and now they are coming in poor.

“It all started for us from the financial crisis and it [went] from there.”

Mr Soo said a lot of his customers come from the land or regional areas such as Parkes, Forbes and Cowra and stop in while attending appointments in town.

Before its closure they also used to come to shop at Myer, “now they only come into town for medical reasons,” he said.

He said state and local government regulations and costs, as well as the overall change in the shopping industry due the internet, have also had a flow-on effect and now the drought has drained the finances of one of his largest customer bases.

“Farms are, I suppose, our last major industry, they’ve always contributed to the community,” he said.

The comments from Mr Brown and Mr Soo align with the results of a recent NSW Business Chamber survey, which found that more than 93 per cent of businesses across the Central West were affected by the drought.

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