Launceston business Westerly says retail is unpredictable

PERSPECTIVE: Westerly owner Zoe Howard also runs a graphic design business in the back of her shop.

PERSPECTIVE: Westerly owner Zoe Howard also runs a graphic design business in the back of her shop.

Tasmania’s small and medium businesses are among the most confident in the nation, a new survey shows, but one Launceston retailer believes the sector is hard to predict. 

The latest Sensis Business Index showed small business confidence rebounded after a 17 point drop in the June quarter, with Tasmania recording a 22 point increase to receive a score of +52.  

Businesses also appear to be feel supported by the state government, as Tasmania reported the second highest approval rating in the nation.

Westerly owner Zoe Howard said sales had been increasing month-on-month since opening in April, but consumer spending habits were difficult to gauge. 

“One day it might be very quiet, and the next day it might be great. You come to work each day there’s no consistency to Launceston and the Tasmanian retail sectors I think,” she said.

“Even coming up to Christmas, I would have expected a lot more people, there seems to be a bit of a slow burn happening.” 

She said she remains quietly confident about her homewares business.

Kooee Snacks Tasmanian founder Andy Fist said he felt supported by both the state and federal governments, but his business optimism was not necessarily influenced solely by governments.

Tasmanian economist Saul Eslake said the rebound in Tasmanian business confidence showed a previous dip in the June quarter was largely the result of issues with energy supply during the crisis.  

While support for state government policies was the second highest at +3, a majority of states received negative scores, with support in Tasmania at its greatest in September 2015, receiving a score of +26.  

“I’m just sort of guessing that small business, like larger businesses, would like to hear more from the government about what their longer-term plans are,” Mr Eslake said. 

Tasmanian Small Business Council executive officer Robert Mallett said the positive results were likely to do with Christmas approaching.

He said confidence was best measured when compared against an extended period, and questioned whether the picture was as strong in the North.

“The Tasmanian government itself has felt they needed to give $100 million to the local government sector for interest-free loans to try and get things going,” he said.