Before you head down the expressway to a big shopping centre or log onto your favourite online store, think about what you can buy in Cessnock and its surrounding towns.
That's the message that is being promoted by Cessnock Chamber of Commerce and its recently-launched Support Cessnock campaign.
The campaign not only encourages residents to shop locally, but also asks local business owners to support and communicate with each other.
With about 30 empty shops in the main street, and more set to close soon, the chamber called an urgent meeting on August 5 to discuss the needs of local businesses.
Chamber president Clint Ekert said the meeting was, in part, prompted by The Advertiser's story the week prior on the struggles of two Cooper Street retailers during the CBD renewal construction.
While the retail downturn is not a new issue, nor one that is isolated to Cessnock, the chamber felt it was time for immediate attention.
"It's about making sure all businesses prosper," Mr Ekert said.
"We're trying to bring everyone together and bring out pride in the community and in business.
"We need to change the perception from 'we've got nothing here', to 'we might not have everything, but we do have a lot', and we need to support it, or we will have nothing."
About 60 people attended the meeting at Cessnock Leagues Club.
The lack of parking in the CBD was the major issue raised at the meeting, with empty shops, high rent, dilapidated buildings, lack of Sunday trade and competition with larger shopping centres in nearby towns also among the concerns discussed.
Businesses were encouraged to be positive and proactive, and to communicate with each other about what's available in their stores.
"It's also about inspiring businesses to look at things differently," Mr Ekert said.
"We know things aren't fantastic, but there are glimmers of hope."
Support Cessnock promotional posters have been distributed to local businesses, and social media will play an important part in the campaign.
A Facebook group (which already has more than 160 members) and a downloadable poster are two of the ideas from the meeting that have already come to fruition.
"It's exciting to see businesses have already embraced it," Mr Ekert said.
Other ideas raised at the meeting included street markets, a Crazy Day sale, business needs surveys and regular forums.
The chamber will hold a follow-up meeting in November and is also planning a social media workshop.
Meanwhile, nominations are now open for the chamber's annual Cessnock Customer Service Awards, which will be held on October 18. See cessnockchamber.com.au for more information.