Coronavirus update for business: Kmart closures, gambling on the ASX, and tacos to the rescue


Kmart closures

Kmart has closed three of its stores, turning them into online fulfillment centres instead, following what the retail giant has called “a huge surge in demand for our online services”.

Stores in Caboolture, Queensland, Top Ryde, New South Wales, and Brandon Park, Victoria, will be temporarily closed to customer trade, but will still allow for click-and-collect, layby services and returns.

The move comes after high volumes of traffic for Kmart online led to the implementation of an ‘online queue’ system, which went down about as well as you would expect with impatient clientele.

Two Kmart stores in Tasmania have also closed for two weeks, including for click-and-collect services, due to state government requirements.

Plane bailout

The Australian government is set to dish out up to $165 billion to Qantas and Virgin, to keep domestic flight routes running over the next two months.

The government will underwrite the costs of a “minimum domestic network servicing the most critical metropolitan and regional routes”, a statement from Michael McCormack, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, said yesterday.

That includes routes to and from state capitals and other major regional centres such as Alice Springs, Townsville, Mildura and Wagga Wagga, the statement said.

In the statement, McCormack stressed the funding is intended to allow for affordable access to travel for those who cannot avoid it, “including our essential workers, such as frontline medical personnel and defence personnel”.

The routes will also be used to transport medical and PPE equipment, he said.

A run of bad luck

Crown Casino has stood down 95% of its staff, or 11,500 employees, after being forced to close its doors because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

‘Essential’ senior managers, including chief executive Ken Barton, have taken a 20% pay cut, effective until the end of June.

In a statement, Barton said the government’s JobKeeper scheme would be “critical in keeping our business and our employees connected”.

The casino is also offering full-time and part-time employees two-weeks’ pay, while eligible casual workers will be offered a lump-sum payment of $1,000.

Gamble gone wrong

Elsewhere, Sportsbet has received a slap on the wrist after it opened up bets on movements on the stock market.

With no sports to speak of, the gambling site was driven to offer punters something else to gamble on. Somehow, it landed on the ASX, and the performance of the businesses listed on it.

As it turns out, ASIC didn’t take too kindly to the idea, and staged an intervention.

A statement from ASIC cites “concerns that the bets constituted a financial product that Sportsbet was not licensed to offer”.

Sportsbet has now removed the offending feature.

Tacos to the rescue

Steven Marks, founder and chief of Mexican fast-food staple Guzman y Gomez, has suggested his business has nothing short of “an obligation to feed Australia” during the coronavirus-induced lockdown period.

In an interview with Business Insider, Marks said his $2 discount on takeaway burritos is essentially holding the country together.

He also congratulated franchisees on jumping on board with the price cut, and their dedication to feeding people who “have to eat”, and praised the “great culture” he has managed to create.

“I think we’re doing a great job,” he said.

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