Freedom day: What Melbourne businesses can learn from Sydney about reopening

melbourne-lockdown reopening

Melbourne Australia- March 26, 2016: People dine at Degraves street in downtown Melbourne.

Small businesses in Melbourne are preparing for Friday’s reopening and if last week’s surge in retail spending in New South Wales is any indication of how things will play out, getting staffing right is crucial.

CBA merchant data, which compared the four days since restrictions in NSW eased with the previous week, shows spending increased 735% in remedial massage businesses, followed by 694% in hairdressers and barbers.

NSW residents also flocked to beauty spas, which experienced a 676% increase in sales, while spending in fashion retail surged 336%.

With restrictions set to ease in Melbourne from Friday, before easing further on November 5, small businesses should start thinking about how to get their rosters right to manage a similar uptick in sales.

Roster staff ahead of ‘freedom day’

From 11:59pm, Thursday, pubs, clubs and entertainment venues in Melbourne can open to 20 fully vaccinated customers indoors and 50 fully vaccinated customers outdoors.

Hairdressing and personal care businesses can also reopen, with a capacity limit of five fully vaccinated clients.

Businesses in the retail, beauty and fitness industries will have to wait until 80% of Victorians 16 years and older are vaccinated before they can reopen on November 5.

Francesca Bartone, owner of the North Sydney cafe Charlie & Franks, encourages businesses to roster on staff ahead of restrictions easing so they can help prepare.

“In the week leading up, [my staff] were able to set up and get ready for the week,” Bartone tells SmartCompany.

In Sydney, in the week before lockdown ended, shifts in the hospitality industry increased by 155%, while shifts in the retail industry increased by 77%, according to data from the rostering platform Deputy.

Bartone’s staff, who are trained to do everything from serving to deliveries, spent the week before restrictions eased streamlining a contactless ordering system.

“Being a bit short staffed over the weekend, having customers place their order and pay on the QR code really helped us.”

Don’t over-schedule shifts 

If Sydney is a case study to bear in mind, over-scheduling shifts in anticipation of a surge in customers is easy to do.

Last Monday, on Sydney’s so-called freedom day, bars in NSW rostered 49,197 hours, but only 48,520 of those hours were worked.

Bartone, who has a team of 30 staff, says she used pre-COVID roster levels as a guide when deciding how many employees to schedule on.

“I think it’s a case of making sure that you look at your numbers pre-COVID and assume that you’re going to be trading similar to your best days,” she says.

Wholesalers expect a boost

With pubs, cafes and restaurants opening to dine-in customers from Friday, food and beverage wholesalers in Melbourne can also expect a surge in sales.

Sydney-based food and beverage wholesale platform FoodByUs saw orders ramp up following Sydney’s freedom day, with orders increasing 72% last Sunday, compared to the Sunday prior.

Sales of goat curd increased 1685%, followed by mixed berry muffins at 1467%, and extra virgin olive oil by 1385%.

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