MOUNTING electricity prices are taking a toll on local business owners, who say their bills have doubled in the space of just five years.
The NSW Business Chamber has identified rising power prices as a significant barrier to the profitability businesses in regional areas.
The iconic Knights Meats and Deli is just one business to feel the power struggle. Owners James and Deanna McNaughton announced the doors will close for the final time later this month, citing the rising cost of electricity as one reason behind their decision.
The pain of a sky-high power bill is all too familiar for residential consumers - but small businesses feel it worse, paying more per unit of energy and consuming it at higher levels without hardship or payment plan protections available.
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Greg Tooze, of Turvey Tops Butchery, said he has come to expect expensive electricity bills - and with no control over the price hike all he can do is shop for the best deal.
"Our bill would have probably doubled in the last five years. It is not the biggest cost, but the combination of electricity, meat and rent are the biggest burdens," he said.
"Electricity doesn't come cheap so, the best thing we can do is shop around for the best deal. I've changed suppliers at least three times."
Mr Tooze said it is very expensive to operate an independent business in the city and believes the struggle to keep up with the supermarket giants has culled local butchers.
"When I first started in the industry - in 1986 - Wagga had about 26 butcheries, but now there is only six," he said.
"Customers expect us to be competitive with the supermarkets. We use to be able to run specials all the time, but we just can't do that anymore otherwise we will be losing money."
Specialty Grocery Store Duffy Bros Fresh needs large amounts of electricity to keep the business going, says part-owner Frank Rositano.
The total sum of the store's electricity usage comes to about $40,000 for the year.
Mr Rositano said it was a bill that has "certainly got higher" in the past five years.
"For us it's not the biggest cost - we have transport topping that. Getting the produce from Sydney to Wagga is $80 a pallet, when you look at 30 pallets each week it stacks up," he said.
"But, the city will see more local businesses shut in the years to come.
Customers expect us to be competitive with the supermarkets. We use to be able to run specials all the time, but we just can't do that anymore.Greg Tooze
"It is expensive to run a competitive business in regional areas - rent, rates, wages, consumables, utilities - all the bill are not getting cheaper."
NSW Business Chamber's regional manager Andrew Cottrill, for the Murray-Riverina, said the cost of energy has been raised as a constant concern that is holding many businesses back from expanding.
"It is a major concern for a reason - especially when big energy users who are large employers for towns. It is likely they will have to lay people off and in the worse case scenario close down," he said.
"It is a travesty, but what we are urging businesses to do is to use a comparison service because there is evidence that companies are almost always saving money this way.
"We need to focus on the low hanging fruit and find savings where it is easiest. Using a comparison service could be saving businesses up to $10,000 a year - just by making a better deal and there is no obligation to take the deal."