The reality on the ground in Australia is that many small businesses were struggling even before the coronavirus lockdowns began. Now, with the country on the verge of what Financial Review is calling "Lockdown 2.0", it could be the last straw for many businesses.
Nellerichal ‘‘Sree’’ Sreeju, who owns a gift shop in Richmond said: "It was already hard and this has made it five times harder. It’s really uncertain."
He represents a microcosm of businesses in Australia who are begging for some sanity after the country has announced that "non-essential" retailers will once again have to close, starting at midnight on Wednesday this week.
‘‘It has been a roller-coaster. In March, it was really eerie and quiet, and then there was the boost from the stimulus package. Luckily for us, people have been finding us online,’’ he said. His business did "fairly well in July" after pivoting and adapting to the post-virus world.
Just in time for the government to shut him back down again...
"We've been doing a few corporate jobs and that's kind of keeping us afloat now but the street income, we're doing maybe 10 to 20 per cent of what we would have done," he said.
The country's restrictions also mean that barbershops and hairdressers will have to shut down. Joshua Mihan, owner of The Bearded Man barbershop said: "I think for any business owner, six weeks of no trading, the amount of money we’ll lose is quite a lot but at the same time, I think the government has been really good to small business. Without government support, I would definitely be in a terrible position right now.’’
He has already been forced to permanently close his second shop. "I acted quickly so the business didn't suffer as much because I thought I'd rather have one stronger business than two depleted businesses," he said.
Now, with another shutdown looming, he has no business.
Industry groups are calling this second shutdown the "final nail in the coffin" for many small businesses. Anne Nalder, chief executive of the Small Business Association, said: ‘‘A lot of very good businesses are going to be destroyed. Small business needs to be looked after financially. It’s going to mean a lot out of the government’s purses, but to do nothing, you will have no economy. Full stop.’’
Council of Small Business chief executive Peter Strong says there's a "high number" of businesses that simply won't survive the second lockdown: ‘‘At the moment, we’ve got to work to ensure this lockdown lasts only six weeks and people can open again because if it goes any longer, the damage will keep compounding. You won’t have an extra 10,000 businesses close, it’ll be 20,000 and we’re all afraid to put numbers on it.’’
Dani Zeini, who founded restaurant chain Royal Stacks and Grand Trailer Park Taverna, is deeply concerned about the toll of another lockdown on his businesses. He said: "The Melbourne CBD, 900,000 workers come to the city every week and that's just disappeared not to mention there's no shopping, football, tourists and then on top of that the little remaining workers we had, they can't come."
Meanwhile, we had just pointed out yesterday that Australia was implementing Draconian lockdown rules once again for its residents. Melbourne initiated its most severe restrictions yet, we noted:
The premier of Victoria plunged the region into a "state of disaster" on Sunday, announcing even stricter lockdown measures, introducing a nightly curfew and banning virtually all trips outdoors after Australia's second largest state recorded 671 new infections in a single day.
Daniel Andrews told Victorians at a news conference that "we have to do more, and we have to do more right now," as the state battles to contain a devastating coronavirus outbreak that had already stripped residents of their freedoms, livelihoods and social interactions and made it an outlier from the rest of the country.
The new rules include:
"Where you slept last night is where you'll need to stay for the next six weeks."
Curfew between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Only one person per household will be allowed to leave their homes once a day -- outside of curfew hours -- to pick up essential goods, and they must stay within a 5 kilometer radius of their home unless nearest shop is over 5 KM away.
Exercise can be taken for up to an hour a day, with one other person, but still within five kilometers of a person's home.