Business Advice

Does the Melbourne Cup slow small businesses? The race by numbers

Emma Koehn /

Melbourne Cup

Race goers during the 2017 Emirates Melbourne Cup at Flemington racecourse. Source: AAP Image/David Crosling

It’s that time of year again: fancy marquees, big hats and bigger brands are front-and-centre for this year’s Melbourne Cup.

Each year sees plenty of spending in the worlds of fashion and entertainment as Australians prepare for the biggest day of horse racing in the country, with many Victorians planning long weekends in celebration of the Tuesday public holiday.

But when it comes to the smaller end of town, numbers suggest Melbourne Cup Day presents a challenge for small businesses.

Data from accounting platform Xero suggests that over the past two years, Cup Day has seen cash intakes drop at small businesses, compared with the Monday before the big race.

In 2014, cash intakes were 34% lower than the standard trading day prior to the race, while in 2016, sales for the day dropped by 45% when compared to the Monday before.

November also presents a tough time of year for small business cash flow, with transaction data from businesses on the Xero platform suggesting only 32% of small businesses were cash flow positive at this time last year, compared with 39% in 2014.

However, with a projected 101,000 people expected to attend Flemington today to take in the carnival atmosphere, there are still plenty of punters looking to engage with brands and businesses.

Small businesses close to the action have been making their pitches to customers throughout the week, offering a place to put up tired feet-or continue dancing-after leaving the track.

As businesses look for ways to capitalise on hungry patrons fighting today’s chilly Melbourne weather, here are some key metrics for the day.

The stakes

• $6.2 million: The total prize pool shared among the 24 runners in this year’s race.

• $3.6 million: The size of the first-prize packet for the winning horse and trainer.

$141 million: The projected betting spend on the Melbourne Cup race itself, according to IBISWorld.

$135 million: How much Aussies bet on the cup last year

$8.00: Current odds for race favourite Marmelo, which is part-owned by Resimax Property Group founder Aziz “Ozzie” Kheir.

60%: The chance of rain in Melbourne today.

Branding and fashion

• 28: Total number of brands with sponsorship arrangements for the Melbourne Cup Carnival, headed up by Emirates and including retailers like Myer and consumer brands like Absolut vodka.

• 28: The number of “purpose built” marquees inside the Birdcage precinct this year.

• 4000: The number of public figures and celebrities on invite-lists for the marquees, reports news.com.au. 

• $2.2 million: The value of the yacht Mumm champagne has installed trackside this year as the venue for its marquee event.

• $33,690: The total prize pool on offer for Myer’s Fashions on the Field competition for 2017.

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is SmartCompany's senior journalist.

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  • John Kirkby

    We are in the IT service area in Perth and we may as well send everyone home today. With differing public holidays per state, January holidays, it’s yet another Small Business trading impediment.