Falling interest rates, the drought and altered buyer priorities have been signalled as reasons for changes to retail spending habits in Port Macquarie.
Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show a fall of 0.1 per cent for July in retail turnover.
Director of quarterly economy wide surveys, Ben James, says there were falls in four of the six industries and six of the eight states and territories in July.
"Cafes, restaurants and takeaway services (-0.6 per cent) led the falls," he said.
"There were also falls in clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (-1.0 per cent), other retailing (-0.4 per cent), and department stores (-0.2 per cent).
"Food retailing (0.3 per cent), and household goods retailing (0.1 per cent) rose this month."
Mr James said online retail turnover contributed 6.1 per cent to total retail turnover in original terms in July 2019. This is unchanged from June 2019.
The Colonial Cobbler's Lee Subotic said Port Macquarie's base of independent retirees were impacted by interest rate declines.
"People are being a bit more cautious at the moment," he said.
"Any decline in interest rates does have an impact on their disposable income. It is affected.
"People also seem to be spending more on technology and coffee than on fashions.
"Alongside that, online sales have an impact on bricks and mortar retailers."
Alongside that, online sales have an impact on bricks and mortar retailers.Lee Subotic
Mr Subotic said shoppers were moving away from fashion purchases and focusing more on massages or eating out with friends.
Noshtalgia Cafe owner and chef Andrew Norman says he is continually looking at his costs to ensure his business is running effectively.
"Our clients are an older generation so the share market or interest rate changes have an impact on them," he said.
"Older generation customers are very loyal so our consistency has to be there to maintain them (as regular customers).
"The drought also has an impact.
"We have suppliers who tell us that our meat costs are going up - four times in the last two months - but we can't pass those costs onto our customers because there is stiff competition in this industry.
"We look for the very best value cuts and look to adapt to the market."
Mr Norman says he is now shopping daily to reduce wastage and has even planted herbs and tomatoes at home in an effort to reduce costs.
The owner and chef said the cost of food in Australia was amongst the highest in the world.
Colonial Meats owner Marty Archer says the federal government should look to implement pay rises rather than tax cuts to generate some impetus into the economy.
He says people are tending to hang on to their money because of the pressures of meeting household bills including electricity.
The economy just doesn't feel like it is flowing at the moment.Marty Archer
"The economy just doesn't feel like it is flowing at the moment," he said.
"As a micro business we are trying to do things to stimulate business over the counter.
"Prices have gone up because of the drought.
"That means that if a shopper's bill goes from $40 to $50 the next time they come in they will change their order to reflect that."
Mr Archer said some shoppers had moved to secondary cuts of meats but this could be a seasonally-based decision rather that a cost decision.
The National Retail Association says the national retail sales figures for July were "a bad sign for the sector".
Association CEO Dominique Lamb said the July sales slump did not bode well for a sector that has struggled throughout much of 2019.
"The July results are not good news for retailers, we were hopeful of far better figures following a strong sales performance for June," Ms Lamb said.
"A drop in turnover shows that consumer confidence remains stubbornly low, despite measures such as the personal tax cuts and reduction in interest rates."
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