Traders driven to despair by fuel prices
By MEL MARTIN
RALPH Erthel's livelihood is being put at risk by the sky-high price of petrol on the Coffs Coast.
Until last Christmas, Mr Erthel was busy moving his second-hand clothing stall between markets right across the North Coast, but with fuel costing about $1.40 a litre he has had to restrict himself to Coffs Harbour.
"My station wagon takes 75 litres on empty and that quickly adds up," the Sandy Beach resident said.
"With the trailer on ? which carries the second-hand clothes I sell ? I use 15 litres per 100km, so for me to go to the markets is a real hammer."
To top it off, he believes petrol prices have also had an impact on sales.
"Petrol prices are badly affecting our customers as well," Mr Erthel said.
"You don't find the millionaire demographic at markets, it's more the lower rung of the ladder, so the customers are hard hit.
"Spending has been curbed drastically. Turnover has been down by a third to a half, and I know a lot of stallholders pulling out."
But when he did head north to set up his market stall at the Yamba markets, Mr Erthel always made sure he arrived at Woodburn, near Grafton, with his fuel gauge on empty.
When you're filling up a 75-litre tank, a 10 or 15 cents per litre discount can really make a difference to the hip pocket.
"We all used to arrive on empty," Mr Erthel said.
"One stallholder from down south would bring four or five 20-litre jerrycans to fill up."