WAGGA businesses are urging Christmas shoppers to buy locally to boost the economy beyond the festive season as a business confidence continues to remain low.
It comes as the NSW Business Chamber's latest conditions survey showed regional areas being the most impacted with confidence expected to stay below average by December's end.
The quarterly survey, published in September, showed that operating costs and profit were the only indicators out of six that Riverina operators expected to improve in this year's last quarter.
The other indicators - performance of the state economy, capital spending, sales revenue and staff numbers - had negative expectations.
Riverina respondents reported a "deeper contraction" with the top four cost-reduction priorities being energy, unproductive work, operations and overhead.
While profit is expected to improve once this quarter ends, that expectation is only slight - an index of -30 compared with -33.3 in the September quarter.
However, the operating costs between September and December are expected to reduce by 20 index points.
"NSW's growth potential is hampered by weak household demand," a chamber spokesperson said.
"Our survey shows the population-serving industries - such as construction, retail, and food services - are among the weakest.
"The persistence of drought conditions continues to affect regional NSW, with all industries affected."
The persistence of drought conditions continues to affect regional NSW, with all industries affected.NSW Business Chamber
Baylis Street business operator Sandra Elliot, who has been running a pop-up shop selling antique items for the previous three weeks, said she could understand the tough conditions with overhead costs preventing her from having a permanent store.
However, she said it was more ideal to have a temporary store than an empty one.
"It's better for the people and the street, isn't it? To have something going on. There's been a couple of comments about how it's nice to see a shopfront alive again," she said.
Ms Elliot, who has been selling her items online previously, will continue to trade into the new year for a short period to pick up on holiday trade.
In November, the annual Christmas retail sales forecasts by Roy Morgan and the Australian Retailers Association showed that NSW's spending growth in 2018-19 will be the fifth largest despite it being the largest state.
Among those shopping on Saturday was Lauren Boxall, who was buying items from various central stores as a hamper for her parents based in Newcastle.
Ms Boxall said the idea for the hamper came about after hearing about the campaign to buy from the bush this Christmas.
"These are really local presents from across the Riverina because they really love it here," Ms Boxall said.
"It's also because my parents still prefer to shop in stores than online," she said.
The 21-year-old said she mostly buys online for herself while she buys from local stores for her parents.
"It's just easier [online] and you avoid the crowds in town," she said.
Wagga Business Chamber's relationship development manager Casey Wilson said Harris Scarfe going into administration last week showed the importance of buying locally.
"Everyone should at least try local stores first. If you can't buy local, go to another small town before going online," Ms Wilson said.
As for the buy from the bush campaign, she said residents may spread it online and by word of mouth instead of spending money.
"It's a really important message - every bit helps all these businesses," she said.
Ms Wilson, who also runs her own marketing firm in the region, said a recent event showcasing artists and their small businesses in Wagga was a good example of promoting the campaign.
Forty Riverina businesses responded to the September quarterly survey while 42 responded in the previous one.
The December 2019 quarterly survey has not been published yet.
Across the state, the NSW chamber said more substantive economic reform and capacity building - through skills investment, energy affordability, infrastructure and water management - would help productivity growth and the longer-term performance of the economy.
- More about buying regional this Christmas here.