Not again: Businesses given just two hour’s notice to lockdown

Geelong’s small business owners are starting to lose their patience after they were dealt a fresh blow on Saturday afternoon, forced into lockdown with just two hours notice.  

Closed signs are back on windows as small businesses across Geelong were plunged back into lockdown. Photo: Luke McCullough

Local retailers were told to do the unthinkable and shut their doors in the middle of their busiest day of the week after Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews suddenly announced a two-week lockdown for regional Victoria. 

It’s now the seventh lockdown Andrew Durante and his Moorabool Street menswear business, Eddy Elias, have had to endure since the start of the pandemic. 

“It upsets me more than anything,” Andrew said, who’s owned the well-known menswear store since the 1980s. 

“It pretty much stops everything, a bit like Groundhog Day, and it goes from hero to zero very quickly.” 

Supermarkets, food stores and bottle shops are among the small selection of essential retailers who are allowed to stay open to the public during lockdown. 

Non-essential retail settings are required to close with contactless click and collect or home delivery the only way for businesses to continue ticking along.

Despite parts of Victoria surpassing 200 days of lockdown last week, emerging trends in online shopping have kept the state’s retail industry afloat. Victoria’s monthly total of retail turnover has largely remained steady, averaging $7.3 billion per month. Click and collect and other contactless services have been the driving forces, making it a positive alternative to face-to-face shopping which has been lost during lockdown. 

However, Andrew has found the click and collect concept to be useless for his longstanding business which has served the Geelong community since 1951. 

“It’s a waste of time for us,” he said.  

“It’s just because we’ve been offering the service for so long, people come to buy stuff off us because we fit it, alter it, and sort it all out for them. 

“For example, stopping weddings has a huge impact on our business. We do a lot of suits for weddings and all the rest of it. Because we’re more tailored wear, with weddings getting called off, functions being cancelled, it slows us up pretty quick.” 

Browse Menswear owner Louise Boudrie shares the struggles of fellow proprietors, finding the countless lockdowns to be bringing mounting pressure to her Pakington Street store. 

“As a small business, everything that comes through the door is my livelihood. All of a sudden everyone was like, ‘we’re going into lockdown,’ and I just thought, ‘oh my God, not again.’ We just can’t get back on top of things,” she said.

“It’s very taxing. Each lockdown causes more and more stress because you order stock in and you don’t sell it all, but you got to pay for it. Then the seasons change, then you’ve got to get more stock for the current season, then you got to pay for that.  

“It’s a never-ending battle.” 

Small and medium-sized businesses can access COVID-19 support payments to combat the financial challenges of lockdown if they’re found to be eligible.  

Businesses that drop 70 per cent in revenue after two weeks of lockdown, in comparison to 2019, will be able to receive a cash boost of up to $14,000. 

Depending on case numbers, the two-week lockdown is scheduled to end on Saturday, September 4. 

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