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Rural business slides: survey



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A survey has found the majority of small businesses in rural Victoria are struggling to survive.

The survey, carried out in the last two weeks of March, polled 100 small businesses across Victorian country towns and regional centres. It targeted hardware and clothing stores, farm machinery and agricultural supplies businesses as well as car dealers.

Federal National Party frontbencher, Peter McGauran, who conducted the survey, said today the findings showed the rural recession had slashed sales and caused a dramatic shedding of labour in country Victoria.

He said the survey found that 78% of small businesses sampled had experienced a fall in turnover in the last 12 months, with. 58% indicating sa>es had dropped off by between 20% and 100%. *

Only four businesses surveyed indicated a, growth in sales.

"The effect of the recession has also struck at the heart of the rural labour force," Mr McGauran said.

"While 34% of businesses had retrenched or not replaced staff who had left in the last year, another 22% planned to reduce numbers further.

"Of the 100 businesses surveyed, only one indicated it had -taken on additional staff over the previous 12 months."

Mr McGauran said the survey revealed many smaller rural businesses were keeping staff on by reducing working hours and turning fulltime positions to part-time ones.

The survey also sought the views of country small businesses on the likelihood of an upturn in their local economies.

Eighty-three per cent of respondents said there were no signs of renewed hope, while 11% saw positive signs.

Mr McGauran said the survey indicated high interest rates, excessive taxation, a change of government and consumer confidence were high priorities for small businesses.

"Of all these concerns," Mr McGauran said, "interest rates are clearly the major difficulty facing rural businesses."

NB.EDITORSIA BREAKDOWN OF THE SURVEY FINDINGS IS ATTACHED(2pp)

For further information, contact Peter McGauran: (03) 629 6254 or (03) 650 7845 Monday, April 1, 1991

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Peter McGauran MP Shadow Minister for Science and Technology Federal Member for Gippsland RURAL BUSINESS SLIDES$ SURVEY

RURAL· BUSINESS SURVEY t ANALYSIS OF FINDINGS

SAMPLE SIZE: 100 small businesses across 41 towns and regional cities

DATE OF SURVEY PERIOD: March 18, 1991 - March 28, 1991

BUSINESS CATEGORIES SURVEYED: Farm machinery and supplies Car dealerships Hardware and timber stores Motels

Retail clothing stores

TOWNS AND REGIONAL CITIES SURVEYED:

Albury Bendigo Drouin Hamilton Jeparit Kerang

Moe Portland Terang Warrnambool Wycheproof

Bairnsadale Castlemaine Foster Heyfield Korumburra Leongatha

Morewell Seymojar Traralgon Wentworth

FINDINGS BY QUESTION CATEGORY:

Ballarat Co lac Geelong Hopetoun Kooweerup Maffra Murtoa

Shepparton Wangaratta Wodonga „

Benalla Creswick Glengarry Horsham Kaniva Mildura

Myrtleford Swan Hill Warragul Wonthaggi

QUESTION (1): Decline in business over the last 12 months activity as a percentage: RESULT: 6% fallen by 100% - 70%

V 20% fallen by 69% - 50%

- 32% fallen by 49% - 20%

16% fallen by 19% - 10%

4% fallen by 9% - 1%

♦Static position on previous year: 18%

♦Growth in turnover (unspecified): 4%

QUESTION (2): (a) REDUCTIONS IN STAFF OVER THE LAST YEAR: (b) INTENDED REDUCTIONS IN THE COMING YEAR: RESULT: (a) 1% had taken on new staff.

34% had retrenched staff or failed to replace those who had left voluntarily. (65% had not altered their staffing positions as many were family run businesses or else employed only one to

two staff.)

(b) 22% indicated the intention to reduce staff by either retrenchment or by reduction in fulltime positions to part­ time positions.

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QUESTION (3) t Mane three (3) Initiatives the Government could take to turn your business around$

RESULT! (Significant response categories only listed)

(a) 41% indicated a reduction in interest rates. 35% indicated this as either their first or second priority. 6% indicated this as their third priority.

(b) 28% indicated dissatisfaction with current Governments at either the State or Federal levels or else called for the resignation of particular current Government leaders.

(c) 21% indicated lack of optimism and (consumer) confidence.

(d) 21% cited the taxation system as a source of concern.

(e) 10% cited restrictive work practices or over­ award payments. .

(f) 12% sought special assistance for farmers.

(g) 11% indicated concern with foreign imports and dumping.

(h) 16% were critical of bureaucracy/red tape and Government waste in spending.

QUESTION (4) ! Are there any hopeful signs for business in your town?

RESPONSE: (a) 83% replied "No" (b) 11% indicated positive signs. (c) 3% were uncertain. (d) 3% gave no answer.

QUESTION (5) : How would you describe your business circumstances on a rating from Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor, Very Poor?

RESPONSE (6) i Very Good! 6% t Goods 17%

! Fairt 41%

$ Poor* 25%

t Very Poor: 11%

PETER MCGAURAN HP

April 1, 1991