How your $$$$ can help a small town suffering after the 2020 NSW Bushfires!
Rural Australia needs YOU!!
Campaigns like #spendwiththem, #roadtripforgood and #emptyesky are saving rural Australia. These campaigns are encouraging visitors back to drought and bushfire affected towns on the South Coast of NSW. I have seen a steady trickle of guests visiting our small village of Kangaroo Valley in the Shoalhaven who are telling me that they want to spend money in the fire-struck areas. This is just what these little towns need, as roads were closed due to fires along the length of the coast and summer visitation plummeted resulting in businesses closing and towns suffering.
So how can you make a real difference to these communities right now?
Firstly, don’t be scared to visit these little towns – even the hardest hit villages are “Open for Business” and need your support now, and you will be welcomed with absolute open arms. The best way is to spend your hard-earned dollars in a way that multiplies its value. Here’s how. The ‘multiplier effect’ means if you spend $20 in your general store, they keep $6 and pay $14 to local purveyors, those local foodies then keep $6 and spend $8 on ingredients in a local shop. Now your $20 has become $54 in economic benefit as the money is re-spent locally. Spend at chain store and only a small proportion is re-spent locally as the majority goes back to the HQ. So, every $1 you spend locally can be maximised.
What you can do as a visitor
Here are eight ways to get the best bang for your buck and spread the LOVE in rural Australia.
- Remember, our small retailers do not have the competition of big city deals for stock. There are less people passing by to make a profit. Don’t begrudge a local business because it is 10% more than in Woolies or the city – your hard-earned dollar will have a much bigger impact in a small store. Think of it as an insurance policy to keep variety in our towns and interesting places for you to visit
- Yes, do come with an empty esky, and even better, an empty car. Get your provisions locally, not just locally made honey, wines and olives, but even your basics from a general store or bakery or shoe shop
- Go to all the little shops and spend a bit of money in each. Go out for dinner and buy local wine from the pub, buy the kids an ice cream, get your sunscreen in the little pharmacy, pick up some bread on the way home
- Come with ½ tank of fuel and fill up in a small town, check your oil and coolant while you’re there
- Buy souvenirs, artwork and local crafts. Buy early for family birthdays and upcoming special occasions, send postcards, buy socks and hats
- Go to local events like garden shows and donate to community fundraisers – so you don’t want to win a garden mulcher, buy a ticket anyway and if you win ask for it to be redrawn
- Visit museums and heritage sites even if they are not your cup of tea – pay the entrance fee and feel grateful that these volunteer run organisations are here for ours and other’s enjoyment, education and for prosperity
- If you stay overnight don’t bring the kitchen sink! – use that linen service and stock up on loo roll and shampoo at a locally owned independent grocer.
The above ideas help your tourist dollar make a big difference to the NSW South Coast communities where the 500,000 hectare Currowan Fire brought heartbreak to the residents and stress to the visitors to these little villages and towns.
On 2 January 2020 the entire length of the Shoalhaven, all 160 km of it, was declared a ‘Tourist Leave Zone’ and the fire was not declared officially out until 9 February, when summer holidays were over and school had gone back. The enormous economic impact hasn’t just affected the tourist-based businesses, but many suppliers are suffering too.
I recently spoke to businesses as diverse as an ice cream distributor and the paper products supplier, both of which provide stock for stores and accommodation up and down the coast for hundreds of kilometres. In January business was almost non-existent due to road closures, fires and lack of tourists. Drivers had their shifts cut and casual staff hours were at an all-time low. And all this in what the industry and the community see as their most profitable time of the year. Everyone had a terrible start to 2020.
So that is why it is so important to get tourists back to the area to spend a little, or preferably a lot. I heard of one shop in a bushfire ravaged town where a customer spent $1000 on alcohol in a little village bottle shop. He said he drove down from Sydney specially to bring the money into the area instead of buying at his usual ‘duopoly’ supermarket.
That gesture would have made a significant impact on a business suffering after the fires. The Facebook post about buying from a small business and helping a little girl get dance lessons, a little boy buy his team jumper, and a family put food on the table is true.
How your local business can make a big difference
Think your little business can’t make a difference? Think about the pioneers in Australia when they first arrived. They set up little shops in faraway locations and everyone had to rely on everyone else. It is much the same today, except that we now have juggernauts to compete with. But many little towns have survived for over 200 years with their businesses and communities thriving. Here’s some things you can do to ensure the financial sustainability of businesses in your area:
- Make a conscious decision to always use local suppliers – it’s just too easy to buy everything online and the money goes straight out of your town. If a shop doesn’t have something you have seen ask them to order it in for you – be it the bathroom shop, linen, or electrical appliances, car parts, etc.
- Order supplies from local wholesalers, they will get to know your business and be able to better advise you and they usually deliver too – bonus! Find local businesses by asking at markets or browsing other stores at home and in nearby towns.
- Use local tradespeople from small family businesses – IT, hardware, steer clear of chains, we want local businesses to be able to thrive without having to resort to paying huge fees to join franchises
- Form strategic alliances with other businesses – make packages that include a dinner out, or a kayak trip, or cinema/restaurant discounts. Small business has the flexibility to be innovative and offer what the customer wants
- Actively promote reciprocal links with others in your town, if you can’t fulfil an order or booking recommend a competitor and be sure to let them know – lots of successful businesses makes the town much more attractive to visitors and a nicer place to live
- Avoid large multinationals and chains which suck the profits out of town – the only thing they are paying into your town is wages, and there will still be plenty of others looking to buy the cheapest at the expense of local business. Shop in your local IGA or corner store
- Accommodation providers make sure you develop and promote your own website and avoid having busy periods and weekends available on third party sites where the profit is taken straight out of Australia. We need to re-educate Australians to book direct to avoid owners losing more than 20% in commission for all their hard work. Offer incentives for guests to book direct with you
- Have a map showing exactly where other great places are located and what they offer – take the guess work out of what’s open when – book your guest in for dinner or wine tasting.
My little home town is the small community of Milton-Ulladulla, and I have lived in many different places all over the world, before settling in Kangaroo Valley, between the NSW South Coast and the Southern Highlands almost 20 years ago.
The thing I love about these towns is the diversity and authenticity of the shops and cafes – these towns are thriving due to the wonderful little businesses run by Mums and Dad. Australia has over 2 million actively trading small businesses (0-19 employees) in Australia, which is 97% of all Australian businesses, accounting for 33% of Australia’s GDP, and employing over 40% of Australia’s workforce.
So, our little small businesses make a massive difference to the financial health of Australians, and right now these towns need our help to ensure businesses stay afloat, and to help the economy overall.
Prioritise local product over profit – Crystal Creek Meadows’ case study
We established Crystal Creek Meadows Luxury Cottages in 2003 in Kangaroo Valley, NSW, Australia – we are a micro business with just a few of us working here. From the very beginning we decided to spend as much money locally as we could. Here’s what we achieved and you can do too!
- Over the years we have spent over $2.5 million dollars with our local community, of which 58% was to micro and small businesses, and a total of 60% in the South Coast – from kitchen manufacturers, bakery, general store to the local chocolate shop. Our first choice has always been, and will always be, to buy local, and even one little business like ours makes a huge difference to community wealth.
- We have encouraged our guests to do the same. On average our guests spend over $288 per person in Kangaroo Valley village, with 92% eating in the village, 65% buying food, 54% buying wine and 38% taking activities.
- Of course our ethos has to also be sustainable environmentally and socially. We have always supported local charities and over the years we’ve donated $68,000 in donations and volunteered 180 days. In January we donated $50 for every new booking for that month to The Kangaroo Valley Wildlife Initiative, which was born from the ashes of the bush fires and has been instrumental in getting water and feed to wildlife in the fire areas.
When we arrived our property we planted many different species to attract native wildlife back, and while doing so realised our guests also wanted to plant trees. With that we implemented a ‘plant-a-tree’ scheme where guests get their hands dirty and learn about biodiversity. The Plant-a-Tree scheme has also become a significant event for many celebrating an anniversary or remembering a loved one, child. We are now providing our guests with information on The Kangaroo Valley Wildlife Initiative “Donate-a-Tree” project which allows others to donate funds towards native grasses to citrus trees to the gardens of bushfire struck properties – what a wonderful way to provide future food and habitat for the many birds, insects, reptiles and mammals affected and at the same time help rehabilitate the barren ashy remains of someone’s once thriving garden.
The bottom line is that your $100 can make a difference to the small towns and villages ravaged by the fires. We have seen the difference we can make. Our guests feel good too for making a positive difference with their holiday money. Use your dollar wisely focus on the local businesses and help a small town flourish. And don’t forget, have a really wonderful getaway in NSW.
Image Credit: Visit Shoalhaven
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