Victorian business owners left reeling after coronavirus lockdown restrictions extended
Rebecca Corteling says it was “gut-wrenching” to find out she won’t be able to reopen her clothing store until late October, at the earliest, under Melbourne’s restrictions roadmap.
“I think we have already been through enough,” she said.
“It is heartbreaking watching the customers walk past our store in the local shopping centre and we can’t open our shop to them.”
Marylee Clothing is in a shopping centre at Langwarrin, in the city’s outer south-east. The business was closed when stage 4 restrictions were introduced.
“We are still operating online but obviously [with] nowhere near the turnover we have when the store is open,” she said.
Under the roadmap — labelled a “road to nowhere” by the state’s chamber of commerce — retail stores in Melbourne must remain online or click-and-collect businesses only, until the city reaches the third stage in its recovery.
The earliest date that can occur is October 26, but the Government says there also needs to be less than five cases per day as a statewide average.
Ms Corteling said she was doing her best to keep her staff employed while her business went through such tough times.
“They are all from the local community and they are trying to support families as well, so we are just trying to keep busy and rely on online for the time being,” she said.
She believes this Christmas trading period will be crucial to the survival of many small retailers.
“If we don’t get our Christmas trade, the percentage of us who won’t be able to open next year in a shopping centre will be very high,” she said.
Many retailers are still paying high rent, she said, even though they can’t open their stores.
Australian Retailers Association chief executive Paul Zahra said retailers had hoped for a phased return to business, but the State Government announced a delayed return that would be “devastating for the sector”.
Tourism operator fears for regional businesses
James Murphy runs tourism businesses along the Bellarine Peninsula and Great Ocean Road, but at the moment most tourists can’t get anywhere near his surf school or his wildlife boat tours.
Usually 40 per cent of his business comes from international tourists, another 40 per cent comes from Victorian travellers and about 20 per cent from interstate tourists.
It’s usually a lot of fun to operate the business, he says, but he now is facing “horrible” circumstances.
He’s trying to work out how many people he will be able to have on his boat tours with social distancing once tourists can return late this year.
“I think we will be able to operate at best at about 40 per cent of capacity. Maybe if we get really creative we could operate at 60 per cent capacity,” he said.
“But does that break even for operating the business as we have for 24 years? No, absolutely not.”
While he said he was confident his business would get through the pandemic, he was worried about other tourism operators.
“The proposed recovery plan does not create a positive outlook in the immediate short term, especially for operators in regional areas that have minimal to no current cases of COVID,” he said.
“As a result, many tourism businesses may not make it through.”
The industry’s peak body, the Victorian Tourism Industry Council, said its operators were facing a “dire challenge” because of the extended lockdowns.
Chief executive Felicia Mariani said many operators would not be able to keep all their staff on until they could restart in late October or early November.
“This will see many tourism businesses unable to maintain staff, even with JobKeeper, given the financial impost of related on-costs with no revenue in the immediate future,” she said.
The Australian Hotels Association said hotels and pubs would “bleed further with debt and face going over the cliff” under extended stage 4 lockdown restrictions.
Gym owner thankful he can now make plans
Kim Heta runs a gym in Werribee, in Melbourne’s west, which has been closed for much of this year because of coronavirus restrictions.
Yesterday’s announcement brought some good and bad news for his business.
Mr Heta can start running personal training sessions in outdoor settings from September 28, if the city reaches average daily case rates between 30-50 per day.
He expects to see a spike in demand once he can run those sessions.
“When we did open for a time and were allowed to do outdoor stuff, I went from doing 10 one-on-one [classes] and then I had 40, just over 40, in a week, ” he said.
“It just picked up that quick.”
But members will not be able to return to his gym until the state reaches its third stage of recovery from October 26 at the earliest, and that will be with restrictions.
“We are shattered when it comes to that because it is what we love to do and want to be doing but at the same time, it is what it is,” he said.
“You know, I really feel for Daniel Andrews. He has to make some hard decisions.”
Mr Heta said the State Government’s recovery roadmap would allow him to start making plans for his business.
He said he would continue to focus on what his business could do, and work on creative solutions to get through.