Dungog businesses are being forced to adapt to tougher trading conditions as rising electricity prices, wages and interest rates combine to create a 'perfect storm'.
Some businesses have found different ways to try to combat the rise in costs, Dungog Pizza has recently installed solar panels and are using them as a way to mitigate soaring energy bills.
Co-Owner of Dungog Pizza, Natalie Spedding says she is excited to see exactly how much she is saving with solar.
"We managed to offset the rising electricity costs by adding solar. The only thing is we use the majority of our heavy equipment in the night so we're not getting it's full capacity," Mrs Spedding said.
Electricity prices have been increasing since the start of 2022 with experts calling it a 'perfect storm' of international and domestic circumstances leading to the rise in prices.
It means that businesses in Dungog will have to look at ways they can adapt to still make ends meet.
Rising electricity costs represents a significant cost that Mrs Spedding and her family face, as her home-loan rate and cost of wages have all gone up at the same time.
"It is a bit frightening," She said.
Dungog Pizza employs seven different staff members, as well as Mrs Spedding and her husband Duncan.
"First electricity, then the wages and then the home loan increase. We only put our menu up a couple of months ago. We felt like we needed to do that then to keep our heads above water through COVID," Mrs Spedding said.
"It feels like it defeats the purpose of that because now we've been hit left, right and centre with all these price increases."
Mrs Spedding is hoping to weather this storm without having to do anything drastic as she feels a strong connection to the community of Dungog.
"We'll just see how the next few months carry out. We still want to look after everyone, we don't want to put customers under stress. That's the last thing we want," she said.
The extent of the impact that this has already had on businesses is best highlighted by Dungog's local butchery, Dowling Street Meats.
Owner of Dowling Street Meats, Katie Vadior, has expressed concern especially due to the sheer amount of electricity Dowling Street Meats uses.
"Each quarter we use anywhere from two-to-three thousand dollars worth, on a cool room, fridges, machinery. We've got a cooker which we use and that uses a lot of power, that goes 24/7 for four or five weeks," Mrs Vadior said.
Being one of the butcher's biggest expenses, increasing prices would affect them massively, according to Mrs Vadior.
"Electricity is one of our biggest expenses, if they doubled it would be a huge impact on us," she said.
If prices continue to increase, Dowling Street Meats would have to look at cutting costs or hiking up prices, according to Mrs Vadior.
"You'd have to increase your prices and look at ways of trying to reduce electricity expenses, which is difficult for us," she said.
Newer, more alternative businesses are also facing this challenge with the new Dungog Wholefoods Co-Op in a fragile position.
"Our margins are slim so any changes to the cost affects our viability," Co-founder Anna Crane said.
Another more alternative business that will be affected by this rising cost of electricity is Dungog's Tinshed Brewery.
Being a micro-brewery, a lot of their brewing process is much more power intensive than other larger breweries.
Haley Cox owns the Tinshed Brewery with her husband Jimmy, the increasing cost of electricity is a big concern of hers.
"The unfortunate thing is there's not a lot we can do apart from seek more cost-effective power," Mrs Cox said.
"Physically reducing power consumption is very difficult. We can't just stop doing a certain element because then we have no business."
Mrs Cox has looked into putting solar panels on the Tinshed Brewery however it is not viable.
She has also looked into alternate sources of power, such as using wastes to heat water but the up front cost is too much for the Tinshed to afford.
"We've looked at alternate solutions than just the main grid, like solar. We also looked at a heating element where you use a waste product to create heat," Mrs Cox said.
"It's super, super costly to set it up. The costs of that would far outweigh anything else."
Micro-breweries across Australia face the same problem, however the Independent Brewers Association are stepping in the lend a hand to brewers like Mr and Mrs Cox.
"They basically said we'll join forces and find brewers better power deals," Mrs Cox said.
By pairing up with Independent Brewers Association, Mrs Cox hopes to counter the rising power prices by $1,000. However, this doesn't do much to dent the $20,000 a year that the Tinshed currently spend on power, according to Mrs Cox.
These rises in power prices come at a time when prices for everything are going through the roof, according to Mrs Cox.
"We've seen an increase in costs across the board. Delivery has definitely gone up, aluminium cans went up 20 per cent. Most of these costs we've absorbed. We can't really absorb much more at the moment," Mrs Cox said.
On top of rising power prices, the minimum wage has recently been risen as well. This has resulted in minimum wage workers getting up to $40 a week more in wages. Although rising costs to businesses do present a challenge, higher wages are a welcome change to those that are working on minimum wage, according to the Dungog Community Centre manager, Kate Murphy.
"For the people that have been struggling with the rising rent and cost of living obviously it's going to be helpful for them," she said.
Mrs Murphy does however acknowledge that these costs will affect businesses around town.
"Businesses will have to pass on this cost... I'm aware of the pressures that small business people, particularly in regional areas are under. You can't look at any one thing under a microscope," she said.
Mrs Murphy also pointed out that some Dungog residents might be adversely affected.
"There's a whole other group of people who are on benefits or fixed incomes, self funded retirees, who aren't going to get that rise," she said.
Mrs Murphy sees both sides, how businesses may struggle with increasing costs but also the benefit to minimum wage workers.
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