Over the last few weeks, customers have been emailing LUXBMX co-founder Mitch Wood asking whether they’ll be fined for going out for a pedal in Brisbane.
But after Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Friday Australia’s northern-most state would ease some of its COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, the business owner is hopeful customers will become more confident.
“We’ve been pretty lucky because you can still out and go for a pedal, but they’ve closed skate parks and other facilities,” Wood tells SmartCompany.
“People were definitely freaking out when that happened.”
Queensland will be the first east-coast state to experiment with easing unprecedented stay-at-home orders, introduced last month in response to the coronavirus crisis.
From next Saturday, residents will be allowed to venture outside their homes for non-essential purposes, including going for a picnic or shopping, provided they remain within a 50-kilometre radius of their homes.
There are now less than 100 active cases of COVID-19 in Queensland and officials believe restrictions can be eased without causing a new spike in cases, although the measures are conditional.
“The first sign of a spike we will not hesitate to clamp back,” Palaszczuk said in a statement circulated Sunday.
“This is a test-run to see what effect easing restrictions has on the containment of COVID-19.”
For business owners such as Wood, the winding back of restrictions is good news. As stay-at-home orders ease up, the path to economic recovery becomes more clear.
But lingering is the possibility Queensland may be moving too early, raising the prospect lockdowns could be reinstated if infections spike again, further disrupting independent traders.
“It’s hard because it seems like we’ve done a really good job of containing it, but then it’s like… have we overreacted?
“This is a better outcome than the other alternatives,” Wood says.
Officials across the country will be watching Queensland closely in coming weeks as the state invariably becomes a test case for what a forthcoming easing of restrictions in NSW and Victoria could look like.
There are multiple levels of decision-making at work in shutting down large swathes of a state, including local and federal authorities. For Wood, news on when skate parks will re-open will be crucial, but those are decisions for myriad local councils across the country.
“We’re not going to rush into anything yet. We’ll just play it safe and see what other people are doing too,” Wood says.
“We wouldn’t want to ease too much and get stuck back in the same situation.”
LUXBMX has been agile enough to trade through the pandemic, however. Wood was forced to close his store but reports an increase in online sales in recent weeks.
“We’ve been pretty flat out this month, which is pretty crazy,” Wood says.
“The online store is going really well.”
The business owner is using the shutdown as an opportunity to move, repositioning his store to nearby Woolloongabba — a locale with better warehousing to enable his growing e-commerce business.
“It’s a spot that’s a lot better for e-commerce … among all the craziness we thought it would be the perfect time to move while we don’t have to worry about the store,” Wood says.