NSW drought: Parkes businesses struggling through dry times

DRY TIMES: Parkes Chamber of Commerce president Geoff Rice said businesses in town are struggling in the drought and that larger corporations could help. Photo: FILE
DRY TIMES: Parkes Chamber of Commerce president Geoff Rice said businesses in town are struggling in the drought and that larger corporations could help. Photo: FILE

LARGE corporations could do more to help businesses struggling through the drought, Parkes Chamber of Commerce president Geoff Rice says.

Currently 34.2 per cent of the Central West is in intense drought, 61.4 per cent in drought and 4.4 drought affected, data from the NSW Department of Primary Industries shows.

While the Parkes community has benefited from the Inland Rail, Pacific National and the Northparkes Mines expansion during the drought, the operations could spend more money locally.

That is the sentiment from Mr Rice who said these large corporations continue to award contracts to businesses from outside the area.

"It's good to see some of that money flowing through into food and retail [in Parkes], but businesses that are completely rural based are really struggling," he said.

While some clothes and gift shops have closed in Parkes due to the drought, Mr Rice said the town's retail vacancy rate was comparable to that of Orange or Bathurst.

It's good to see some of that money flowing through into food and retail [in Parkes], but businesses that are completely rural based are really struggling.

Parkes Chamber of Commerce president Geoff Rice

With no end to the drought in sight, he urged people to continue to shop local to support the wider community.

"To some [businesses] $5 or $10 on one item means that shop you like might shut and not be there next time you want it," Mr Rice said.

Forbes Business Chamber president Margaret Duggan encouraged businesses to get online to expand their customer base.

She said it was vital that businesses had an online presence, no matter whether that was a website or social media account to help promote themselves and remain competitive.

Cowra Business Chamber president Jordan Core said many businesses had restructured and resized to reduce overheads, while others have adapted their offerings.

"Some businesses have gone from bricks and mortar to an online presence, while some have decreased stock on hand and improved marketing strategies," he said.

DRY TIMES: Currently 100 per cent of the Central West is in drought or drought affected. Photo: AMY MCINTYRE

DRY TIMES: Currently 100 per cent of the Central West is in drought or drought affected. Photo: AMY MCINTYRE

Mr Core said Cowra's business owners were resilient and would do everything possible to keep services local and people employed.

"Businesses in Cowra are smart, they understand what needs to be done to stay in the game, when the drought breaks, they will be here," he said.

Western NSW Business Chamber regional manager Vicki Seccombe said the impact of the drought could not be overstated.

"It's continuing to hurt businesses and our local economies right across the Central West," she said.

"Businesses are reporting substantial decreases in cashflow, falling sales and revenue, while operating costs are on the rise."

The recent Business Conditions Survey revealed businesses had shed staff during the past quarter.

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