Coronavirus update for business: COSBOA’s government-support wishlist, Corona beer’s future and a panic-buying spike

COSBOA: We need action, now

Council of Small Business of Australia association members came together on Wednesday for crisis talks on how industry associations and governments at all levels can protect Australian businesses from the effects of coronavirus.

Together these groups represent more than one million Australian businesses and their message to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his team was clear: businesses cannot wait any longer for help to safeguard against the almost certain financial effects of coronavirus.

In a communique from the meeting, shared with SmartCompany, the groups called for urgent financial assistance in the following forms.

  1. Direct cash injection. This assistance must be proportionate to need and provided early.

  2. Tax forgiveness. Federal, state and local governments should announce a regime of tax forgiveness (as opposed to tax deferral) of BAS, company tax, payroll tax and rates. Such measures would free up cash to keep staff employed and fund ongoing business costs in the face of sharp declines in earning.

  3. Wage assistance: In cases where businesses are forced to stand down employees from a workplace, the 13-week eligibility period for the employment benefits of affected employees should be waived and businesses should be given financial assistance to maintain the wages of impacted staff at the minimum award wage (i.e. after consideration of payment of employment benefits).

  4. Regional economic stimulus for affected communities: Federal and state governments should develop and implement one-off payments to households in regions that are impacted by major outbreaks of COVID-19, possibly by the provision of business vouchers.

Peter Strong, chief executive of COSBOA, said in a statement the groups considered a range of scenarios for how small and medium businesses could be affected by the ongoing crisis.

“This included scenarios where a high level of illness creates a shortage of workers; where geographic areas are impacted heavily for short periods creating low trade and poor consumer activity with a resulting lack of business and loss of jobs across that small economy; the forced closure of public transport which creates a crisis for small business; [and] employees and/or business owners are forced into quarantine affecting the viability of the business,” Strong said. 

“We all agreed that this is a problem that is not just for government to confront.

“All business — big, medium and small — must take action where necessary and all governments — federal, state and local — have to also take their full share of responsibility.

“We do not expect a perfect response to a disease of such contagion, but people should be confident that the business community will work closely with government to manage impacts and the economy.”

The meeting included representatives from a cross-section of industries, including newsagents, hairdressers, pharmacists, professional services, accountants, bankers, medical practitioners, retailers, service station operators and sole traders.

Corona beer sales won’t tank

It may be reasonable to assume the ongoing economic crisis will negatively affect the sales of Corona Extra beer, simply because of the shared name. That’s certainly the message behind a number of international headlines in the past week. 

But marketing guru Mark Ritson says that won’t necessarily be the case, if the past experience of other prominent brands is anything to go by. Ritson believes when punters at the pub are asked what beer they would like, “the answer that will spring to mind for thousands of drinkers in the current and coming months will be ‘Corona’”. 

“Not because of what it stands for. Not because of the negative associations it evokes. Just because that was the first beer that came to mind,” he says. 

Intrigued? Read more here

Panic-buying to the extreme

Aussie supermarket shelves have been emptied of toilet paper, as concerned consumers stockpile for the worst. Some supermarkets have also been bought out of nappies.

In some cases, scenes of panic buying have turned ugly. One supermarket in Parramatta has confirmed police were called following ‘an incident’ between two shoppers, amid reports of a shopper with a knife.

Woolworths has also reportedly put a four-pack limit on toilet paper sales.

Ethical online toilet paper brand Who Gives a Crap also reported a 1000% increase in sales on Tuesday, and has now declared itself out of stock, to make sure it can continue to service subscribers and meet existing orders.

Amid the panic, there are concerns for people who don’t have the means to stockpile now struggling to access toilet paper later.

Who Gives a Crap founder and chief Simon Griffiths encouraged those who have piles of paper to think of those who might not.

“Make sure your friends and neighbours are OK,” he says.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also said stockpiling is not necessary at this stage, saying people should continue normally.

“That is what you can do, most importantly to help the economy, to help each other, and to lower the anxiety levels,” he said.

Today’s resource

If your business is already experiencing financial hardship because of coronavirus, now is the time to get in touch with your bank.

The Australian Banking Association has outlined the kinds of assistance available and compiled this page of contact details and websites for the financial hardship teams at all of the country’s major lenders. Click here to read more.

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