The final straw for Narrabri businessman Peter Shepherdson came when a farmer arrived at Namoi Diesel Services to seek his help with an injector problem.
“I saw the part was a cheap import and inquired ‘where did you get it?” Mr Shepherdson asked the farmer.
“On the internet for about $145,” he said.
“Well, you better get the internet to fix it,” suggested Mr Shepherdson.
“He had no idea what he had bought.
“Another bought parts for the injectors, fitted them and they wouldn’t go on two cylinders.
“The parts didn’t have a brand on them, or a part number - nothing. But he had bought them cheap.
“In the end he was worse off.”
Peter Shepherdson is exasperated, worried about the future of small businesses like his and being forced to cut back on staff and inventory.
Like many small business operators Mr Shepherdson’s Diesel Service, which he and business partner Terry Lilliebridge have owned since 1986, is competing with much cheaper items bought on the internet.
“All businesses expect competition, but it is not competition,” Mr Shepherdson said.
“People can buy these parts much cheaper than we can.
“The overseas or internet businesses do not have the high overheads we have of rent, power, rates, licences, parts inventory, staff and everything else.”
Mr Shepherdson agrees that his is a story of our times.
“People will buy on the internet to save money on that purchase but the result is that small local businesses are gutted.
“We can’t possibly compete.”
The reality is that in Namoi Diesel’s case, Mr Shepherdson has to let two staff members go, local jobs which have disappeared, out sourced to a supplier somewhere a long way away from Narrabri.
“It’s a triple whammy,” he said.
“We are facing the electronicisation of machinery whereby nothing is repaired any more, it is just replaced, plus the impact of the internet where people can buy from China or somewhere else so cheaply and the buying power of major national chains which small businesses can’t match.