Customers head business wish list

SMALL business doesn’t want much in 2001. It just wants more customers to spend more money more often.

Increasing consumer demand heads a l0-point wish list from the Small Business Development Corporation. The other points are a stronger Australian dollar, a simpler business activity statement, interest rate flexibility, tax cuts, cheaper fuel, keeping up with e-commerce, understanding the new tax system, an increase in the number of tourists to WA and fewer bad debts.

SBDC managing director George Etrelezis said consumer demand had overtaken concern about the new tax system, which was last year’s wish list leader.

He said franchisors and exporters were the hungriest for a jump in consumer demand.

Country operators are more concerned with consumer demand increases than their metropolitan counterparts.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief economist Nicky Cusworth said consumer sentiment was still fairly weak which meant an early rise in consumer demand was unlikely.

“Anecdotal reports of Christmas sales are reasonably good but patchy. We had expected this Christmas to be better than last Christmas,” Ms Cusworth said.

She said the chamber did not just want Australian interest rates to stabilise. It wanted them to fall. That coupled with a strengthening Australian dollar should help boost consumer demand.

An interest rate drop is looking more likely following the US Federal Reserve’s surprise decision to cut US interest rates by 0.5 per cent.

Ms Cusworth said the Australian dollar’s poor price had been puzzling as the fundamentals behind the currency had been strong.

“I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see the Australian dollar continue to strengthen. It will hurt exporters but help importers and help to keep inflation down,” Ms Cusworth said.

Mr Etrelezis said the new tax system, rising interest rates and a falling Australian dollar had made 2000 a very challenging year for small business.

“The sector is also grappling with the changing nature of businesses brought about by e-commerce developments,” he said.

“In the year ahead, marketing and e-commerce innovation are more likely to be areas of particular interest for the small business operator.”

More than 61 per cent of Australia’s small businesses are connected to the Internet.

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