If you want to know what the real story on the impact of interest rates is, “get out into the shopping malls and see if the coffee shops are still selling coffee, because if that doesn’t sell nothing does.”

That’s the word from a Crikey retail tipster.

So, with an eye on interest rates and a commitment to chasing down getting the real story, I spent the morning on the phones having a yarn to coffee shop owners in the suburbs to see what’s going on. Although I didn’t get much love from most coffee shops, Nabil Turk, manager of Café One, a coffee shop in Centro Campbelltown in Sydney’s southwest, was willing to talk.

Turk muses that although sales haven’t changed dramatically over the past few years, despite 12 straight interest rate rises since 2002, he has noticed that the most recent rises are really biting. “Sales used to be alright; steady, but as soon as the recent interest rate rises were announced, sales dropped.” Although Turk could not provide figures, he says that there is an obvious difference in takings in the till at close of business each day, estimating that sales have declined about 10% in the last three to four months.

But Anne Omg Tan from Valentino’s Café Restaurant in Heathmont in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs hasn’t seen a change. When asked if she had noticed a difference in patronage, Omg Tan said “not really, actually I think we’re sort of winning them [customers] back. We’ve just got one of those new Italian coffee machines and it makes great coffee”.

Monica McAteer of the Scented Garden Café in Croydon Hills, in Melbourne’s outer east, is happy with sales figures at the moment.

“Actually business has increased”, McAteer said, “but we sell organic coffee so we’re sort of a niche market, so it hasn’t really hit yet. Of course that’s not to say it’s not going to change.”

Crikey would love to hear your story. If you’re a coffee shop owner or budding barista — or someone with an anecdote about the crunch at the till — send an email to [email protected].

Peter Fray

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