B.C. Leather Hats owner Bill Conner and employee Sally Kerr ponder what the soaring Australian dollar will mean for the Byron B
B.C. Leather Hats owner Bill Conner and employee Sally Kerr ponder what the soaring Australian dollar will mean for the Byron B

Hats off to Aussie dollar

By RACHEL AFFLICK

AS THE Aussie dollar soared to new heights this week, Byron Bay business owner Bill Conner was pinching his pockets.

Mr Conner's B.C. Leather Hats business in the Byron Bay Industrial Estate exports over 95 per cent of its stock. Now the local company is losing its foothold overseas, unable to compete with cheaper, mass-produced exports from Asia.

The Aussie dollar rose this week to a 23-year high of 93US cents. For Australians planning an overseas trip it's welcome news.

But for local export businesses it's merely signalled tough times ahead.

Mr Conner has been exporting locally-manufactured B.C. Hats for more than 20 years and this is the highest the dollar has been.

With 13 employees to consider, he's determined to battle on, even if it means struggling to break even.

"It's really hard to compete. Normally we'd have about 12 weeks of exports ahead of us, now we've only got three or four weeks," Mr Conner said.

"I don't know what will happen if it goes dollar-for-dollar."

Mr Conner said his only option was to get smarter, and he would continue to look for ways to keep margins down and be more competitive.

But while the surging dollar is a curse for some, it's a blessing for others.

Aussies planing an overseas trip stand to save big bucks thanks to a strong currency conversion.

Travelscene Byron Bay consultant Bridget O'Dea said business had picked up in the past week, probably due to the strong Australian dollar.

"For those wanting to go to America it's a great time to travel," she said.

"I'm going to Honolulu next year, so I'm converting all my cash while it's a good rate."

Whether the strong dollar will lead to a downturn in international visitors to the North Coast, Byron Bay Visitor's Centre duty manager Kaidrick Flinders-Smith was doubtful.

He said business was a strong as ever, because people tended to book their travel well in advance.

"It's been fairly on the button. We've had about 700 people through our doors each day, but it might affect how much people do while they're here and how much they spend," he said.



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