Retail billionaire Solomon Lew has called for government mandates to only allow fully vaccinated people to enter shopping centres.
However, while one small business owner agrees with the sentiment, he doesn’t think the responsibility should fall to any business, regardless of their size.
Speaking at a profit update for Premier Investments, which owns chains such as Peter Alexander, Dotti, Jay Jays and Smiggle, Lew reportedly called for vaccine checks to happen at the point of entry to a shopping centre, rather than falling to the individual businesses inside.
He reportedly said shopping centre owners have an “absolute responsibility” to protect both workers and customers in their venues.
“I don’t want to be in a situation where we’re saying to somebody, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t let you into the store’, then we have a security problem and they king-hit one of my people,” he added.
Such a rule would also have a significant effect on the small businesses operating within shopping centres, but Phillip Kuoch, founder and chief executive of doughnut chain Goldeluck’s, says he doesn’t think the onus should be on any business, whatever the size.
While having vaccine passports checked on the way into a shopping centre might make life easier for some of his staff, it doesn’t address the key issue, Kuoch tells SmartCompany.
“I would like to see the onus put back onto the government to implement and police it,” he says.
“I don’t think businesses can afford to police something like this.”
Goldeluck’s operates out of several shopping centres across Melbourne, and also pivoted during the pandemic to offer deliveries nationwide.
While some bigger businesses may have the resources to hire additional staff to check customers’ vaccination status on entry, small enterprises like Kuoch’s can’t — especially after almost two years of restrictions.
Kuoch says he feels for the ‘mum and dad’ stores and franchises running out of shopping centres, as many have had to let staff go during the pandemic and they’re working on a skeleton crew as it is.
At the same time, Kuoch shares Lew’s concerns about his staff being vulnerable to abuse from customers who may be unvaccinated, or unwilling to show their vaccination status.
“It’s such a controversial thing at the moment,” he notes.
Tensions are running high in the public, and he can tell his team members are feeling tense too.
“Our staff have been through a lot,” Kuoch adds.
Having difficult conversations with customers will only be an additional strain on their mental wellbeing, he notes. That’s not what they’re signed up for, and not something Kuoch wants for them either.
As it stands, Kuoch and his team are still working on a plan for the Goldeluck’s stores for when restrictions start to ease in Melbourne.
But he’s “really concerned” about how it’s going to work, and the effect it could have on his staff.
“We’re wanting to have more guidance from the government,” he notes.
“I just want to do what’s best for our staff, because we’ve had a rough last few years and I would imagine a lot of other businesses had been through something similar.”